I don’t know why I thought of Beijing as grey, because it’s actually a very green city. There are tons of beautiful parks and open spaces, and the Summer Palace has to be the jewel in Beijing’s crown.
We came to Beijing at just the right time. With factories shut down and half the cars on the road, the grey skies have been mostly due to rain. We’ve even seen blue sky when the sun comes out.
One day before the military parade, they’ve closed all the gas stations in the city to reduce car traffic even further. Tour groups have been turned away, so it’s only independent tourists like us and ex-pats still in the city. (like we needed more reason to stand out!)
We visited the Summer Palace on Monday, a gorgeous series of palaces built on Kunming Lake in north-west Beijing. The open water, the natural landscape, pavilions, pagodas and halls are simply beautiful. For a few bucks you can ride a covered boat onto the open lake.
We also visited the Temple of Heaven the same day, which the Chinese Cultural Centre in downtown Calgary is modelled on. The temple was interesting to see, but what I found really cool were the 267 hectares of temple grounds.
The grounds are divided up into different recreational areas. In one spot, Chinese Muslims were dancing to lively music. Other spots were more serene for people to practice Tai Chi. We also saw other people working on their Kung Fu. Oh and don’t forget the popular match-making session where everyone lays out their paperwork describing their children and their children’s perfect mate!
The park was covered in trees, each labelled with a tag that held information about the tree. All trees in Beijing seemed to be tagged, and apparently it is illegal to cut any tree down, even if you planted it yourself.
Beijing has done a lot of work to counter the air pollution. There are cycle tracks everywhere (hmmm… someone please remind my Ward Councillor of that!) and there are even electric charging stations for cars. It’s a city of 22 million people that keeps growing, though, so I’m not sure there will ever be any balance with the environment.