A couple of Sundays ago, Antonella, Roberta and I visited the old summer palace. Many Americans (and others) come to Beijing and visit the new summer palace as part of the standard Beijing tour (as touristy as it is, the new summer palace is certainly something I recommend). Fewer go to visit the old one. If you come to Beijing and have time, the old summer palace is a nice place to visit. Just don’t do it on a Sunday afternoon.
The ‘palace’ is really not a palace as you might think of it. It is really more of a park. there used to be a residence there, but it was destroyed in 1860 by British troops. There are a few structures left, but the nicest feature of the park is that it has several lakes with lots of blooming lotus flower. It would not be a bad place to visit, but the day we were there, it was madhouse. There were thousands of tourists, many moving tot ether in packs, their guides explaining all of the historical significance of each part of the grounds. It was so loud that you could have found more tranquility at a football game. Roberta was disappointed. She had been there when it was quiet, so she came with higher expectations than me. I was not so discouraged and decided to use the time to practice taking quick-shot pictures with my phone. I don’t like to ask people if I can take their pictures (it seems intrusive) and you can also get more authentic images if your subjects don’t know they’re on camera (yes, it is an ethical inconsistency). Below are some of the most interesting pictures I managed to get.
After spending a couple of hours at the park, we left out a side gate. We tried to get a taxi to take us back to BLCU, but none wanted to take us. I’m not sure why. One driver in particular seemed amused that we even wanted a ride there and laughed at us. Antonella cursed at him in Italian and we went and caught a bus instead.
Overall, I would give the old summer palace a B. It is not as impressive as the new one, but it is something that you might enjoy if you have some extra time in Beijing. Just make sure to go on a weekday.