Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Riding The Canal

In the past, Beijing's water bodies have been notoriously smelly and polluted. But as the city has developed, especially during the run up to the Olympic Games, there has been a concerted effort to clean things up. Hearing that it might now be possible to ride a boat along a canal from near our house out to the Summer Palace, we set out on foot one afternoon in search of a new Beijing experience.

As usual, we had our own incompetences and Beijing's vagaries to deal with first. We saw boats plying up and down the canal, but could not figure out where to get on board. We headed east, until we eventually came to a public security officer who informed us that we could go no further. (For those of you familiar with the ease with which you can go pretty much anywhere in the United States, suffice it to say that things are not quite the same here in China.)

We then turned around and walked west for about a mile, until we came to a boat moored to a small dock. "Can we go to the Summer Palace on this boat?" we asked. "Sure!" came the reply. So we paid our fee and got on board, the boat to ourselves. (Certain passages, we have found over the years, are much easier in China than the United States.)

Then, suddenly, we saw a telltale flag flying high in front of a group of several dozen people. Spying this fast approaching tour group, we quickly grabbed what we judged to the the best seats and braced for the end of peace and quiet.

What happened next was a lovely (and, yes, noisy) half hour cruise up to the south gate of the Summer Palace. As we pulled into the dock there, we were greeted by the sight of men, children, and dogs frolicking in the canal...



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