Mountain Resort

Nicholas Quirke was finding Chengde very much to his liking on 1 August 2020. The threatened rain had not materialised, though torrential rain caused floods and wreaked havoc in the Beijing they had left behind, which he thought was a sign that the gods were on his side. The Mountain Resort had been the summer retreat for the Qing dynasty emperors from the start of the 18th century and a particular favourite of Emperor Quinlong and the villainous Dowager Empress Cixi, who from the age of 27, following the death of Emperor Xianfeng, organised a palace coup and ruled China from behind the scenes. Their tour of the immense mountainous resort was one of surprising freedom and was packed with incident, danger and fun. They had chosen to walk round the park to see the various relics and not take a tour buss which seemed to run every two minutes and repeatedly forced them off the path, to the point when, after Peng had an aggressive exchange with one of the drivers, they went off the road and took their own path through the forest. This led to them following a map through a deserted over grown and died out river bed, which he became convinced hid poisonous snakes and saw them clambering through dense woodland up a steep mountainside to a Pavilion in the Clouds. The adventure spurred them further afield and when they came across the the mini great wall which ran through the mountains they clambered onto It and began their isolated walk. It was a exhausting but thrilling walk and the views of the Little Potala Palace and the mountains was Spectacular.They had walked for four hours rarely a break other than to drink tea and have a couple of garlic pea snacks and when they reached a point where they could sit down and eat, disappointment at the bag of water chestnuts Peng provided caused a moment of hysteria. Once they left the vast park they found electric scooters and made their way to the Puning Temple, another beautiful and unexpected treasure, which was still functioning as a place of worship. By now the sun was blazing, and the colours of the temple buildings, the flags and the shrines literally shimmered and burnished in the light. Built in 1755 the Mahayana hall housed a Gilded wooden statue of Thousand Hand and and Thousand-Eye Kwan-yin, which at 23.511m is the largest in the world and was a truly wondrous sight to behold. Nicholas was quite overwhelmed and even more surprised that they were allowed to take photos. Amongst the many flags and dedications he was intrigued to see thousands of padlocks decorating one of the outlying shrines. Finally, tired and hungry, they rode back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner which was in a traditional style restaurant with separate dining rooms full of noisy customers. The appearance of a Laowai in the local eatery caused a lot of interest and he was again the subject of many stares. He had been the focus of much attention in Chengde and he was often greeted and spoken to and gazed at which was unlike his experience in Beijing. They finished the day with a walk through the streets where they momentarily enjoyed a popular band performing in the square. There was more mountains the next day and it was wisdom not fatigue that sent them to their beds. Unfortunately the Air Con broke and they enjoyed the presence of a technician and a receptionist in the room trying to resolve the problem with another technician on the phone giving instructions. Once they left it was time for some shut eye.


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