Canal at the entrance to the Summer Palace
Out of all the incredible things we saw on our China trip, my favorite had to be the Summer Palace, a site once used by
China's royalty as a summer retreat from the Forbidden City. M
y Lonely Planet described it as an "opulent dominion of palace temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes and corridors (that) was once a playground for the imperial court."
Words cannot convey the wonder I felt inside the Summer Palace. It was truly stunning — despite existing in a cloud of smog. Everywhere I looked in the Summer Palace looked like a beautiful photograph. I easily could have spent the entire day there wandering around taking pictures, and probably would have if Joe didn't start getting restless after a while.
Joe — too big for ancient China. Surprise.
The centerpiece of the palace complex was this magnificent structure, the Tower of Buddhist Incense. The inside, painted in extraordinary detail, houses a several-hundred-year-old bronze statue of Buddha featuring 1,000 hands, 12 heads and 24 arms.
The tower is perched at the top of a hill overlooking a giant lake dotted with dragon boats carrying tourists across to the Seventeen Arch Bridge. Imagine what this could look like on a clear summer day with water sparkling in the sun...
In the 1700s, the emperor ordered 100,000 laborers to expand and deepen this lake. He liked to sit on this hilltop and watch the imperial navy do drills.
Seventeen Arch Bridge on the other side of the lake
It was a fascinating place, and an afternoon I'll never forget.