I spent the early morning wandering around some of Beijings hutongs, which are a specific type of alley commonly found in Beijing. They are endangered, or at least dwindling, as many or most have been destroyed to make way for bigger and more modern buildings. Some of the more famous ones are protected, because they're a tourist attraction and home to quaint shops, tea houses, and old women and men on bicycles.
I haven't quite figured out what makes them so unique. It has something to do with the way they connect neighborhoods and courtyards. In that regard, but not aesthetically, they're similar to the olle walking paths found on Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea.
Afteward I went to the Beijing Zoo to see the giant pandas.
I have mixed feelings about zoos, but I tend to think they're a good idea, albeit sometimes dirty and usually at least somewhat sad. But they're good educational tools, I think, and they also help preserve endangered species. And for panda bears, I learned today they're solitary animals, living alone except for a brief period each year during mating season. So it's not like they miss their friends in the wild. They'd rather be alone, and in the wild maybe they run the risk of being poached?
I had heard bad things about the Beijing Zoo from other travelers: dirty, depressing, the usual zoo complaints. But I went anyway, and I'm glad I did. I found it to be quite pleasant, and the entrance was only 20 元 ($3.09). That included a separate ticket to see the pandas.
At the zoo, I took a boat, two boats actually, to the Summer Palace, via the Beijing Waterway. It drops you off at Kunming Lake. It's a slow and lazy ride. It wasn't terribly scenic, nor quick, but it beat taking the subway and it was only 40 元 for a ride lasting maybe 40 minutes.
I didn't spend too much time at the Summer Palace. I felt compelled to go inside and wander through all the palaces and temples, but I just didn't feel like it. I resisted the urge to be a checklist traveler: saw this, check; saw that, check; what's next.
|Hutong in Beijing.|
|Bridge at Summer Palace.|
|Chinese guy at Summer Palace did a quick portrait of me.|
|Dragon Boat on Beijing Waterway.|
|Boat on Kunming Lake at Summer Palace.|
|Lily, the first panda to give birth in captivity (1963); she died in the early 1980s, 1983, I think.|
|"Dewey" in Chinese characters, done by a pro on the left, and by me on the right.|
|Girl watching giant panda at Beijing Zoo.|
|Summer Palace and Kunming Lake.|
|Boats on Kunming Lake, and the 17-Arch Bridge, built in 1750, the largest bridge at the Summer Palace.|