December 12, 2008

2. Visit the Summer Palace in the winter, get naked at the Great Wall and pass out from incense inhalation at the Lama Temple.
A short bus ride through the city will take you to the Summer Palace, a sprawling complex of gardens, lakes and ancient Chinese architecture whose structures boast names like “The Cloud-Dispelling Hall”, “The Hall of Longevity and Benevolence”, and “The Sea of Wisdom Temple”, which can have you accessing your zen just by reading the palace map.
There are many different ways to experience a trip to the Great Wall. Some people prefer to go to the closest and most reconstructed part, others prefer to take a four hour hike from one spot to the other, while the more adventurous types prefer to go to a spot called Simatai and ride the tram up, drink a beer, outsmart the guard and strip down for a nice photo op and then slide down on a cable, suspended over water, like an agent in a James Bond movie.
You could easily spend your time in Beijing just visiting all the temples and after a while they start looking pretty similar, but the Lama temple stands apart from the rest, not only for housing one of the biggest Buddha statues I have ever seen, but for actively using all the incense burners the other temples just display, and it’s easy to catch a free buzz by standing next to one of the many people holding a burning stick the size of Luke Skywalker’s light saber.

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