For our third day in Beijing, I had decided that we will hire a car with a driver to bring us to the places we plan to go to for that day. These are places that are not easily accessible by subway so it was more convenient for us to hire a driver for 8 hours to make it easier for us to go to one place to another. I had made prior reservations with the hostel and instructed them the places we plan to go to for that date: The Summer Palace, Olympic Park and 798 Art District. The Olympic Park is accessible via subway but since we have some more hours left, we decided to squeeze it in as well.
Our driver picked us up around 8AM. The receptionist gave him the instructions as to where we plan to go to, and I had with me my little notepad of Chinese words that I have prepared the night before in order for us to communicate with the driver. We expected him not to speak any English so preparing ourselves with those Chinese words was very helpful. Stuff like ”What time do we meet here”, “we would like to have lunch”, etc. are the ones on top of my list.
Our first stop was The Summer Palace, approximately one and a half hours away from our hostel. We paid for the entrance tickets, bought ourselves the map for the Summer Palace, studied it and started exploring. The place was huger than huuuuuge. It’s twice the size of the Temple Of Heaven or even more. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Summer Palace, considered to be a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design, is a majestic display of natural landscape of hills and open water, combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. To put it simply, it’s like entering a whole new kingdom in China.
Probably my most favorite spot in this particular trip, the Summer Palace is a world on its own. Unlike the Forbidden City and the Temple Of Heaven, where everything looks almost the same over and over again, the Summer Palace is filled with just about every breathtaking sight to see. From the Longevity Hill to the beautiful Kunming Lake, the Marble Boat, the pavilions nested on top of large rocks overlooking the lake, the artistic bridges and the unique temples, it exudes with this relaxing zen mode type of feeling that would want to make you stay the entire day here or simply live here and never leave.
After three whole hours of non-stop walking and picture taking, we found ourselves leaving for the exit to meet up with our driver. I guess he was surprised that we were on time. If there’s one thing that I know I am good at, it’s time management. We then decided to have lunch and he brought us to this restaurant, that seemed like an eatery to me. Which was really cool, just the way I wanted it, eating on the streets of Beijing, not knowing exactly where we are at that point but just enjoying their local delicacies without a big bite on our budget.
Our next stop was the Olympic Park. Seeing the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube is definitely at the top of my must-see places here. The driver gave us an hour to roam around the place. We were only there to take pictures of the two stadiums, so that was enough time for us to explore. Also known as the Olympic Green, the Beijing Olympic Park is located in the Chaoyang District and was specifically constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics. They even had to create a subway line for this particular location.
The Beijing National Stadium or “Bird’s Nest” is the centerpiece of this project. It hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and also the athletics and football finals of the Games. Costing around US$423 million, with it’s artistic and futuristic look, no wonder many tourists and visitors are seduced to view and take pictures of this magnificent work of art. The Beijing National Aquatics Center or “Water Cube”, on the other hand, located just beside the Bird’s Nest, hosted the swimming, diving and synchronized swimming events of the Olympics. Since the Olympic Park is one of those sights best seen at night, we also decided to return here the next day to take some more pictures. And yes, it’s a hundred times more beautiful at night.
Probably the coolest place in Beijing, actually in China, the 798 Art District was our next stop. As the name suggests, it is an entire district that houses a thriving artistic community, among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. Everything here is all about art. From the stores, the shops, the food, even the vandalism on the city walls are all about art. We had three hours to explore the place. Good thing I have a map with me handy of the place. We actually got lost after circling the entire area so we decided to backtrack using our camera pics. Yes, we did that. That’s a big advantage if you are such a cam-whore I guess hehe. We went back to meet with our driver around 4:30PM to bring us back to the hostel. We then spent the rest of the day doing some more shopping in Wangfujing.Follow @iamthegarysia