Led by Lilian, we retraced our steps past the karaoke, brass bands, poker players and other ordinary Beijingers having a good day at the Temple of Heaven, then boarded the bus and set off on the road to the Summer Palace. Lilian and Fred told us we would have a surprise when we got there. The surprise seemed to be that we never would get there! We were on the bus for well over an hour. It was very wet indeed
when we were led off the bus. We weren't entirely sure where we were going, but we followed gamely, crossing over another one of those heavy-duty thresholds:
and mounting some steep stairs under a nifty gate:
On the other side, we saw our surprise: we would ride to the Summer Palace on a nifty little ferry boat!
The Summer Palace (click here for a high-quality PDF map, or here for a simpler one) was used for 800-plus years as a place for the Imperial Family to get out of hot Beijing in the summers. It consists of a man-made mountain, and a man-made lake (which was dug out and piled up to make the mountain). You can get to it by driving on a causeway, but our little ferry boat was much nicer. Even its inside was spiffily decorated!
Out the windows, we looked at the gray lake under the gray sky, passing by the 17-Arch Bridge that leads to an island in the middle of the lake:
The number 17 is significant in Chinese numerology. (So I'm told.)
We (okay - I) experienced boat envy, though. Some of the other tourists got to ride in boats that looked like DRAGONS!