We checked out of the Guangzhou Hotel at 12.30 and headed through the city to the Old Summer Palace. We saw people skating on the Bei Hai Lake.
The Summer Palace is immense like everything in Beijing. 290 hectares of Palaces, Pavillions, lakes, ponds, beautiful bridges, temples and gates. We started off at the East gate with it's marvellous bronze creatures
and wandered along the 730m long corridor to the Longevity hill with the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha.
This hill climb to the Tower is a tough one for the oldies but we managed it ok. Back down at Kunming lake level we went through a museum with Palace artifacts. We then moved along the rest of the corridor to Cixi's marble boat,
then enjoyed a pleasant walk out the northern path back to to van.
Our next tour was a Hutong tour in the vicinity of Gulou ( Drum Tower ) and Zhonglou ( Bell Tower ) on the Beijing central Axis.
This was a great little tour. We were introduced to a fine young Tibetan Guide for this tour. His English name was Andy. He told us about life in the Hutongs where there is a great community spirit and bathing facilities are shared, and we also visited a local supermarket.
We went around the narrow Hutongs in a tricycle carriage, two to a tricycle. Andy explained how to identify the wealth of a house owner by the number of studs sticking out at the top of a doorway. We met a number of locals who were charming and then had dinner at the home of Mrs. Dong. She made a wonderful dinner for us of half a dozen courses from a tiny kitchen that looked to have about 1 sq.m of standing room in it. The houses are all very compact and there is no bulky furniture, but they are well appointed.
We headed off on our next adventure shortly after to the Beijing West Railway Station. This place was mind boggling. There was a train board in the main hall that showed 143 departures over the next 2 hours to provincial destinations ??? We went to waiting room No 9 of 13 that held around 2500 people for the next 4 trains in the next 45mins or so.
We boarded train X19 an all sleeper train to Xi'an. This train was huge too. there were 22 cars, hauled by a huge SS7E class electric loco which took us the nearly 1000km in 11 hours or so at speeds of up to 160km/h. The car cabin slept 4 comfortably and there were Asian and western toilets at the ends of each car. There was only one annoying feature of the trip and that was the loco horn was honked every few hundred metres all night. We were in the first car so this was quite a nuisance.
It was sad to say goodbye to our first Chinese guide, Amy. She was a great person and we enjoyed her company very much. She looked after us very well.
Last day in Beijing today. Did some shopping in the vicinity of the Hotel this morning. The shops here are a mixture of malls with tiny stalls and stand alone shops. Most of the shops are geared for the youth of the city with gadgets and nic nac stuff you would throw away after five minutes. the jewellery shops are stocked with gold and jade mostly. Plenty of cell phone shops and around the perimeter there were food stalls.