Chengde (承德) – Summer Imperial Resort & Eight Outer Temples
Chengde is the site of the summer imperial resort where Emperor Qianlong takes time off to hunt in the old days. It’s approximately 4-1/2 hours north of Beijing by train from Beijing Station (北京站). It is located in Hebei province. The Summer Imperial Resort and the Eight Outer Temples are the main attractions of this place. They are also World Heritage Sites. From what I read, the average annual temperature is 8 degrees Celsius.
My travel buddy and I went there last December 30, 2007. We took the train which departed at 630am and arrived Chengde at 1048 am. When we arrived at the station, we were welcomed by strong chilly winds and colder temperatures. We headed straight to the ticket counter to purchase our return ticket for the next day. The line was so long and slightly chaotic. There were only 3 windows open and the hall is in dire need of cleaning.
After we purchased our ticket, we hopped on a taxi and headed to Puning Hotel. This hotel is located on the west side of one of the outer temples. If you want a typical old Chinese ambiance, this would be the perfect place for you. I don’t know how I’ll rate it but it’s either a 2 or 3 star hotel. Once we’ve unpacked, we ate at the hotel restaurant named Shang Ke Tang. You can order a typical Buddhist monks fare or your regular Chinese fare. The utensils are unique as they’re made of wood and the staff are pretty attentive. We ordered a fake Lamb dish (it’s not lamb meat but tofu), Xinjiang lamb dish (full of sesame seeds on the outside) and broccoli. The fake lamb is quite tasty according to my friend, broccoli is ok, while the xinjiang lamb was not to my taste. The servings are big so two dishes is enough for two persons.
After lunch, we went to the temple nearest our hotel, Puning Temple. Entrance fee was 40 rmb. The place was a bit deserted and it’s pretty nice inside. They have a big Buddha with lots of hands towards the back. As usual, no photos allowed but we paid an additional 10 rmb to go to the second floor and was able to take photos as nobody was guarding it. Connected to the temple area is a shopping area. It’s quite deserted as the weather is pretty cold. We didn’t buy anything as most of them are available in Beijing.
Next destination is the Small Potala Palace. This temple is a smaller version of the Potala Palace which is located in Tibet. It’s nice to take a photo from afar as you can see the splendor and magnificence of the place. The entrance fee is 30 rmb during off-season. There isn’t much to see on the inside nor that much photo opportunities.
We then hired a taxi cab to take us to the rock formation that looks like a turtle. I forgot the name. However, the driver informed us it’s not open. So, we went instead to Pule Temple. This temple is sort of a mini-version of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The entrance is 20 rmb. We hurriedly made our way to the main temple and took some photos. The place is small and we were out in less than 30 minutes.
The next day, we headed to the Imperial Summer Resort. The wind was so strong and biting that our faces were all numb and looked swollen. My feet was slowly becoming frozen even though I was wearing two socks. It was not a good day to go out. Nevertheless, we trek inside the resort and went to see all the beautiful places there. There were wild deers that are pretty tame but the mountain paths are close due to the weather. We walked on the frozen lake and went to see the Mongolian Yurts. In the summer, you can rent this yurts for 200 rmb a night. There’s also a pagoda inside and took some photos trying to topple it down. The resort is a good place to visit only if the weather is a bit warmer. Entrance fee is 100 rmb, if I’m not mistaken.
Thus ended our trip to Chengde. We got pretty terrific photos as the skies are blue! I now have pictures of myself in the snow. All good then and a way to end the year.
Train schedule from Beijing to Chengde (hard seat/soft seat/hard sleeper/soft sleeper):
- N211 – 0630 to 1048 (RMB 41/61/92/N.A.)
- 4452/4453 – 2340 to 0611+1 (RMB 20/N.A./57/86)
Train schedule from Chengde to Beijing (hard seat/soft seat/hard sleeper/soft sleeper):
- N212 – 1330 to 1748 (RMB 41/61/92/N.A.)
Note: Tickets back to Beijing can only be bought in Chengde. You can also take the bus to Chengde from the long distance bus station along Da Wang Lu and Si Hui. I’m not sure how much it would cost.