As the name would suggest, this is where the ancient Chinese emperors would live and relax during the summers. It’s not so much a palace as it is a gigantic complex of palaces on a stunning landscape - on Longevity Hill and around Lake Kunming. The Chinese name for this place, Yiheyuan, literally translates to “Garden of Nurtured Harmony.” Something I doubt the English and French knew when they ransacked and burned parts of it down in 1860 (huh, other stuff happened in the world during the Civil War).
Amazingly, I live only 20 minutes away from here, yet have never visited until now. I’m thinking an annual pass might not be a bad idea.
So. Much. Art. Everywhere!
This is where the emperor goes to pray and practice his Buddhist rituals.
The recreation area.
And tea as the emperors used to drink it. I now see why they do the “use the lid to push away the stuff” maneuver always seen in Chinese shows.
With an actual autumn coming to Beijing (as opposed to the fake ones we get in LA and Houston), this is the time to head out of the city for some hiking, set the camera on vivid, and partake in some leaf peeping (I like this latter term probably a bit too much).
This particular trail is two hours outside of Beijing, and as the name suggests, is the same trail ancient quarrymen stomped on transporting stones to two Ming emperor tombs and other ancient ruins in the area. It’s too bad this particular day was as hazy as it was, but a hike is a hike - anything to get mind, body, and soul out of the city.
We were joined on the trip by both a naturalist and a geologist, so we got a good helping of science lessons along with the usual scenic landscapes. As a nerd, I can’t complain.
(Golden orb spider!)
Credit goes to Clement for that last photo. Good things clearly come to those who wait (and have fast reflexes!).
A Wall of China.
And of course, what we came here for: leaf peeping!
The Chinese are fans of gates in the middle of nowhere. I think they fancy they’ll eventually build something around it, so this is just some preemptive fencing.
Next up, the tomb of a Ming emperor who was apparently a furniture aficionado, thus explaining why the stereotypical Chinese furniture look originates from the Ming era. Back then, if the emperor had a favorite hobby, it was also the nation’s.
(Notice the trees poking out of the walls…)
And here is the tomb of the Ming emperor that supposedly “saved the Koreans” from…something. I wasn’t really listening, and I’m sure the Koreans remember it differently. The same way Chinese people are pretty sure the Japanese did not “modernize” China.
My last full day in Korea, Andrew took me to a nearby mountain trail to go hiking. After examining the park map thoroughly, we chose what appeared to be a reasonably easy trail…but it really wasn’t. Scale of 1-5, I’d call it a 4 (if anyone’s gone up Mt. Baldy in LA, I’d call that a 5 - still not sure how I made it up there…).
If the trail wasn’t sharply inclined, then you got quasi-stairs. Imagine doing lunge exercises but going up.
This is clever. The best time to advertise a car is when you’re thinking about how much you hate walking. This would also be a great place to advertise chairs.
The peak of the trail and a sight for sore legs.
This is the camera set to “super vivid.” Oh my god, COLORS!
Yes, Samwise lives in Korea:
And onto a bit of an aside - BEST DRINK EVER:
I forget what this beach is called unfortunately (bad tourist! bad!), but it’s quite beautiful with a slight hint of green. It’s also really nice that, other than the annual mud festival, few tourists have reason to go to Boryeong, which means you pretty much have the scenery all to yourself, save for a few locals.
It also means restaurants randomly close early when they send home all their workers because of a lack of customers. Andrew and I often wondered how the city sustains itself economically.
This is a sweet potato pizza where the sweet potato replaces the tomato sauce. Pretty weird, but also not bad with spicy dipping sauce. Millions of Italians and New Yorkers must be rolling in their graves right now.
More photos from Korea! Here’s some random scenery from Andrew’s city of Boryeong. It’s a fairly small and simple rice-growing city quite a ways from Seoul.
He was trapped, but we gave him a hand.
Lots. Of. Rice.
I didn’t know this is what it looks like before you eat it.
Some Korean restaurants don’t believe in chairs. I endorse this.
So, over the weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Korea for the first time on account of visiting a good friend teaching English there. Andrew lives in Boryeong, a coastal city roughly two and a half hours south of Seoul. Because I figured I’d have plenty of reasons to see Seoul in the future but no other reason to ever go to Boryeong short of visiting Andrew, we decided to save exploring the capital city for another time.
By the way, to get to Boryeong from Incheon Airport takes over 3 hours. Imagine getting off a 15-hour plane ride and going through customs and immigration, and then hopping on an express metro to Seoul, transferring to a train at Seoul Station, transferring at another station, then taking a taxi to finally reach where you’re staying.
If all goes according to plan, I am currently on a plane going to Korea! I’ll be visiting a good friend there during his long weekend (Oct. 9 is Hangul Day, a holiday celebrating the creation of the written Korean language in 1446 - prior to that they used Chinese characters). And then it’s off to Beijing, which means the title of this blog will all of a sudden be relevant again.
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