City of Towers and Temples
Be like an emperor and escape Beijing’s summer temperatures with a trip to Chengde. Only a short, four-hour drive from Beijing, Chengde is an attractive destination for those who don’t want to waste precious hours en route. Families can spend a pleasant day in Bishu Shanzhuang, the extensive Imperial summer resort. Originally a hunting lodge for Emperor Kangxi, Bishu Shanzhuang is filled with shaded gardens and regal artifacts, and the complex is home to several pavilions, palaces and lakes. Also try visiting one of the Eight Outer Temples, where the Qing emperors received visitors from all over their empire. If walking is a hassle with younger children, electric carts or small boats are also available.
The Travelers: Turkish couple Murat and Zeynep Yelda Telek, and their daughter Yasmina (3), who was eight months old at the time.
How to Do It: Yelda booked the trip through an online travel agency. RMB 800 in 2005 covered all transport by van, the hotel, meals and almost all entry fees, with an air-conditioned van as an added luxury.
Where to Eat: The Teleks enjoyed dinner at Xin Qianlong restaurant in Dijingyuan Building on Xinhua Lu. Local dishes included deer meat, eight treasures rice pudding, nansha cake and steamed jiaozi.
Weather Tips: Even though Chengde is cooler than Beijing in the summer, the days still get very warm – remember to bring hats and sunscreen and carry lots of water.
The Temples: The Eight Outer Temples showcase Han, Tibetan and Mongolian architectural styles. Standouts include Putuo Zongchengzhi Temple (a mini Potala Palace) and Puning Temple, which holds a mammoth woodcarving of a 1,000-armed Buddha. Many temples have a lot of stairs and are not very stroller-friendly, so a kiddie backpack may be in order (RMB 20-50, 8am-5.30pm daily).