We had decided to get out of the city (Beijing) and so were off to Chengde. We first had to get across town to the bus station (only very slow trains to Chengde). This took about 1 hour 30min by bus/cab as the traffic was horrendous. We bought a ticket quite quickly - very helpful people at the bus station. We then had to get back through the Beijing traffic - took about 1 hour to clear the city. The journey was a little boring to start with but we then went through the mountains, passing through sections of the Great Wall. We realised however we were on the slow bus - he didn't use the tollways and stopped a lot. That meant we did not arrive at Chengde until about 3:00 - most of the day gone. We checked into our hotel which was a lot better than we were expecting - big room with decent facilities. We had time a quick walk round town - going into a restored Taoist temple which was different from what we had seen to date.We had dinner just down the road from the hotel. It is more difficult here than Beijing - no English on the menu, only pictures. We tried our best and thought we had ordered beef with vegetables. It turned out to be beef with chillies - about 50 of them. The beef was fine but the chillies were a little too strong for our taste. We are now practicing the Chinese word for 'not spicy' as all we seem to end up with is chillies.
Up early the next day, but not early enough. We had a free breakfast with our room but didn't realise it was from 7:30 to 8:30. We arrived at 8:45 to get some breakfast from the Chinese buffet but the selection was poor - don't know if this is because of the Chinese style or the hour - we will see tomorrow. Chengde was the imperial hunting lodge - which is another palace and a large park with lake. It was used as the summer retreat but it now has a city of nearly a million attached to it. We set off to explore - initially we went to the palace which was OK but was very similar to the other ones we had seen. There were some nice pieces in it - particularly the enamel and porcelain. We then had a walk around the lake which was exquisite. Lots of pavilions by the water with views. There were deer in the park that were very tame - they were being fed by children. There was an option of a bus ride through the rest of the park (the place is vast and very hilly) so we took that. That took in some of the far away sights with one view over the temples that had been built round the park. These were based on other temples - one of which is the main temple in Lhasa that is huge.After the park, we hopped into a bus to see one of the temples. This was a Buddhist one with an enormous wooden statue in it. The place was very well kept - especially after seeing the ones in Mongolia. Suspect the government funds it to bring in the tourists.