Beijing: 8th May 2014
Many guide books would have you believe that the Emperor ‘seldom left’ the Forbidden City. But, he had his ‘Summer Palace’, set in extensive gardens by a lake. We didn’t see inside the Palace itself, but, instead, took a stroll around the gardens. However, it wasn’t exactly the leisurely stroll we’d been anticipating.
At the entrance to the gardens, a sign proudly announced the number of visitors it receives; 59,990 the previous day, and forecasting 33,000 for that day. A quiet day, then?
We saw many boats on the lake, most of them offering cruises. We passed; there are plenty of cruises in the programme later. Some of the boats were carved in the shape of dragons; there was also a boat sculpted in marble on the orders of one of the Empresses. I wonder if it actually floats?
In a bandstand, a group of singers and musicians were performing. They weren’t busking; I saw nobody giving them money … or, indeed, a hat or anything to receive donations. Maybe somebody paid them?
Neither, I was told later … they perform for the sheer pleasure of it.