Today is our last day so after breakfast we were taken to visit the Chinese Herbal Institute where we all received wonderful foot massages by the interns and trainees. We were told about traditional Chinese acupuncture, cupping and herbal remedies. Some fully qualified Chinese traditional doctors came around to take our pulse and discuss our various ailments. We were offered some creams and herbs to purchase to alleviate our issues.
At this point we were split into two groups – those who had opted to visit the Temple of Heaven and have a rickshaw ride and dinner and the rest of us who were taken to view the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was originally built in one of the dynasties near the hot springs outside of Beijing. The emperor would take his boat up the Grand Canal from his kingdom home in the south to the Summer Palace in the north where he would partake of the healing and soothing hot springs. Over the years the palace fell into disrepair until the late eighteen hundreds. The Dragon Lady who was the aunt of the young child emperor at that time and who ostensibly ruled the kingdom decided to restore it. The money that had been assigned to the Navy was confiscated and used to bring the place back to its former glory and enhance it for her particular needs. Very few were allowed into the huge area consisting of beautiful walkways, flower gardens and buildings alongside a man-made lake. She demanded large quantities of food with over 20 courses of which she ate very little. Eunuchs had to test the food before she would eat in case it was poisoned. It seems she realized she was not well liked. (When Angel had been describing the empress yesterday I thought she was talking about some woman named Ann Price. It took me a while before I caught on.)
Just after noon we were out of the Summer Palace and into a van headed back to the hotel. Our sight-seeing of China is basically over. I have really enjoyed this trip though I have to admit I came here with some trepidation. But the country is gorgeous, the food is really good and the people we have encountered have been lovely. What I have seen is a bustling economy, huge cities with rows upon rows of high-rises, lovely parklands, great roads and a solid transportation network. The countryside I glimpsed from the train appeared quite lush with beautiful rolling hills.
And the people on our tour have been really great. We meshed well as a group – looking out for each other as well as sharing many laughs.