Many people have asked me how to organise a trip out of the city, so here is how and it really is easy, I promise.
We spent two days away, one to the Summer Palace and Botanical Gardens and the other to the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. Both of the days we left from the centre and returned, we didn’t stay over anywhere.
The Summer Palace was by far the easiest to reach. We took the subway to Bagou station (on line 10, North West Beijing) and jumped in a taxi from there, which was less than 20¥. It depends which entrance the taxi driver drops you at. I don’t speak a lot of Chinese so didn’t specify but each time I’ve visited I’ve entered the park through a different gateway. It doesn’t make a difference, the price is the same and you can just leave through which ever. The main entrance is a little further from the subway so might cost you a few extra yuan on the taxi fare. The closest entrance is within a km so is the standard started fee from the taxi of 13 ¥.
If you’re going to catch a taxi make sure you can show a photo of the Chinese translation, which you’d be able to look up online and take a photo if you don’t have wifi or data. This is the translation: 頤和園 in pinyin Yíhéyuán. Alternatively, an app that has saved me many times is Pleco, used to translate any English and will speak the Chinese to the taxi driver to make it easier. I am constantly on Pleco when I’m out and about to get me out of difficult communication problems. There are many other English to Chinese apps out there but this one has always worked for me I would definitely recommend it.
The Summer Palace sits around a huge lake, where you can rent boats in the summer. There’s a enormous park you can wonder around and see all the smaller houses dedicated to members of the court. It was beautiful both in the summer and winter, when the lake freezes over. During the colder months there isn’t a large crowd or coach parties heading to the palace, making it a lovely walk if you’re wrapped up warm. In the summer, with the boat on the water there’s more to do with the all the kiosk stalls opening for food and snacks. On a clear day you can see the entire panorama of the city from the top of the palace, though there are many steps to climb so best to get to the top early in the day and beat the crowds.
The palace was built as a summer retreat for the imperial court, escaping the heat of the Forbidden City, most famously frequented by Empress Cixi. She had the palace built twice, once after the British and French troops destroyed it in 1860 and again after it was ransacked during the Boxer Rebellion of 1902. Much of the palace has since been restored and altered for visitors. Though, there is very little information as you walk around making it a good idea to take a guide book or buy the audio guide offered.
It still attracts thousands of visitors a day from across China so don’t be surprised if you’re asked for photos. People from smaller towns or hard to reach places aren’t used to seeing foreigners.
If you would recommend the English to Chinese translation app you use, let us hear about it in a comment. ♥