Saturday 18th July 2009:
*posh announcers voice* Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for yesterdays unscheduled change in programming. We are glad to inform you that service should return to normal, I repeat we have normality... anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem
Today is the first day of the program as it should be, unfortunately it is also the last day in China (for a while anyway), but we could tell that today was going to be a good day as breakfast had a special guest star... bacon! It's the little things that make me happy
The days schedule involves a lot of sightseeing, I'll try not to bore you with all the stories from the sites we saw... I'll just bore you with some of them
First stop of the day was at the Olympic site (as it is on the way to our main destination for the day).
The Birds Nest... (did you know that there was another building called the Egg?)
The Swimming Pool (which was open to the public, and was very tempting in the heat)
These two iconic buildings of the Olympics were actually directly across the street from each other!
Ok, this building wasn't so famous... it generally wasn't shown on TV cause it was the one with all the TV cameras and presenters inside it (so that they could have the birds nest stadium in the background)
These mascots were just sat at the side. Beth went over to get her picture with them, a couple of us followed suit (including myself as you can clearly see). By the time we left them there was a small queue of Chinese people wanting to do the same. Beth, she's so cool she is setting trends.
As you can tell by the photos, the Olympic Village was not a small place by any means. And we would have happily have spent hours wandering around it. But this is a whistle-stop tour my friends.
Total time allowed at the Olympic village: 15 minutes ... yes running was involved ... hey I can run when I need to you cheeky beggar!
And so onto the main attraction for the day, the Summer Palace. Up until now we had been wondering where all the millions of Chinese people were. The streets had been a lot quieter than we had expected (although still rather deadly). Turns out that they are all hiding out in the Summer Palace.
The place was so busy that our guide Serena had to bring out The Flag to start off the classic tourist game of Follow the Flag. (it's pretty self explanatory)
There she is... don't let her get too far ahead!
The Summer Palace is ginormous! I mean HUGE! 2.9 square kilometers (or so wikipedia tells me, and why would it lie to me?). The Palace does feature some highly functional buildings that frankly no holiday home should be without, including: The Cloud Dispelling Hall, The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity and the Oriole Listening Hall. That last one being a building specifically for listening to singers... remember these were the days before ipods, otherwise there would probably be a building for that too.
But those buildings aren't the main attractions. In fact some of the main attractions arn't even buildings!
Heres a quick run down of them... (I'll try to keep it brief ha!)
And if you look on your left we have the Thunder Stones (roughly translated... I can't remember the actual name). Called Thunder Stones because they apparently look like thunder, these stones (which apparently bring good luck etc) actually bankrupted three Emperors before actually getting into the palace!
Next we have the Marble Boat. An ancient analogy says that the Emperor is like a boat, and his people are the sea; a sea that could potentially become turbulent and capsize (or overthrow) the Emperor. The Emperor who built this boat wasn't a particular fan of this story, so this is his version of a boat that is impossible to overturn... showing those plebs once and for all who is boss. nice eh!
While traveling between the two of them, why let this pesky thing called the sun get in your eyes. Why not build a corridor, but it's got to be pretty so lets paint all of it... with each and every beam unique... in the longest corridor in the World.
Yeah, that aught to cover it!
Now to just jump on a boat so that we can cover the huge lake in this Palace.
Boat trip= win. Mexican wave with all the passengers= epic fail
Stunning isn't it
I just want to squeeze in this other picture of that building... I don't know what exactly the building is in the Palace, or its fancy name... but I just love this picture:
Please note the blue sky: this was one of the few times in China we saw a blue sky!
The boat took us over to the 17 arch bridge (no prizes for guessing why it's called that):
Anyone else noticing the complete lack of railings etc?!
You can see the Longevity Hill in the background
The island at the other end of this bridge was quite interesting. It was built by the order of the Empress, purely for her enjoyment, and it was designed to mirror the Longevity Hill (shown in the pictures from the boat).
But these things don't build themselves (you know what I mean) so the money had to come from somewhere, so it was craftily taken out of the Navy's budget on the proviso that they would use the island to inspect the Navy from. Not surprisingly, the Navy was crippled by the cost!
End of Part One...
It's at this point that we went to lunch, yes lunch... we're only half way through the day people (I did warn you!). I recon by now your cuppa is getting cold, so I'll leave the afternoon for another day.
Don't say I don't do anything nice for you!
Again, thanks to all those that donated photos to the cause