The Summer Palace is such a majestic and immense complex of pavilions, gardens, and views that I had to split it into 3 parts to be able to properly show its beauty. This is the third and last part of the series.
The design of the Summer Palace is based on a Chinese legend about 3 divine mountains, which have been represented as islands in Kunming Lake, while the lake itself was built to resemble the West Lake in Hangzhou, Eastern China. The whole complex is filled with features built to remind the observers of other attractions in China.


Bridge of Pastoral Poems

When I reached the area next to the West Lake, I was in ecstasy: the panorama was simply astounding. Taking slow steps to fully breath in all that beauty, I followed the path.
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The Summer Palace is such a majestic and immense complex of pavilions, gardens, and views that I had to split it into 3 parts to be able to properly show its beauty. This is the second part of the series.
Longevity Hill stands in the middle of the Summer Palace and allows not only to admire the gardens and Kunming Lake but also see the landscape of Beijing in the distance. On the hill many imponent buildings with very creative names are present.


Top of the Pavilion of Precious Clouds

The history of the Summer Palace is very interesting as well as tragic: the palace was built in 1750 and was initially named Garden of Clear Ripples and served as imperial garden and temporary palace of the royal family in the Qing Dynasty.
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The Summer Palace is such a majestic and immense complex of pavilions, gardens, and views that I had to split it into 3 parts to be able to properly show its beauty. This is the first part of the series.
It takes about an hour to reach the complex from the city center as the area is located at the outskirts of the city.
The eastern and main entrance of the Summer Palace (頤和園 – Yíhéyuán, literally “to maintain energy and mellow the soul”), with two bronze lions stand guarding the gate, is very formal and imposing, although its features might be easily missed due to the large number of people wanting to enter the palace.


View of Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill

After having purchased the ticket and entered the premises, only a short walk is needed to reach the very first breathtaking view: Kunming Lake and the Longevity Hill in the background.
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One of the first places I visited in Beijing was the Yinding (Silver Ingot) Bridge in Shichahai. It was a totally unplanned encounter as, after over 12 hours on a bus, I really felt like stretching my legs while wandering around the new city.


Road next to Shichahai

It was a beautiful and surprisingly warm day (considering the previous gelid locations) but the breeze quickly reminded me that it was December after all.
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Beijing (formerly romanized as Peking), while often chaotic, polluted and noisy, retains some of its charm thanks to certain areas scattered throughout the capital. In fact, walking around ugly and busy roads can lead you to discover some beautiful spots you would have never expected.
Be it because of finding some old building (not too many left, sadly) or an interesting food street, wearing an air mask and actually walking through this bustling city can be a good adventure.
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The way from Ulanbataar to the Chinese border is quite long as it is over 600km and takes an overnight train to reach.
There are two ways to get to Beijing by land without owning a vehicle: the first is to hop on the Trans-Mongolian train, sit back and relax, the second one is to get a train to Zamyn-Üüd, get off, try to bargain a taxi over the border and then get on one of the many buses heading to Bejing from Erenhot (or Ereen for short).
As one can expect, the former option is easier but much more expensive, while the latter requires a bit more effort (and adventure) but can be as much as 3 times cheaper (around $80 instead of over $250).
I picked the adventurous option as it sounded thrilling and interesting to cross the border this way, as well as saving a good chunk of money.


Chinese Tuk Tuk

Even if this method can be difficult and stressful, it went quite smoothly for me, as a bus driver actually offered the border-crossing for free.
Ereen is located in the Sino-Mongolian border and is a common stop for people travelling to or from Mongolia. From the very first moment across the border, you can already feel that you’re in China.
This was only a short stop as an overnight bus would eventually lead me to the capital: Beijing.

The statue of Chinggis Khaan is so shiny and massive that it can be spotted from afar. It is less than an hour away by car from the national park.
The statue is made of stainless steel and is located in the place where, according to legend, he found a golden whip. It is a rather new monument as it was erected in 2008.


One of Chinggis’s bronze horsemen

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We reached the park late on the same evening, where the host family welcomed us with a good dinner and warm beds.
That night, the sky was clear so the stars gave a breathtaking and chilling show as the winds howled through the peaks. In these little glimpses of heaven, the beauty of nature becomes so clear that one cannot help but get lost in some personal philosophical moment.


Snowy park

The next day the daughter of the family brought us breakfast and informed us of the plan for the day, which consisted of a horse riding tour on the snowy land in the park.
The dad waited for us outside the tent while preparing the horses for the ride. He was a large man with a strong Mongolian look, who spoke very little and smiled even less.
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Countless times I have thought myself to be “in the middle of nowhere”, but when I actually found myself in a frozen desert in Mongolia, long away from a path resembling a road and with the only neighbors being the far peaks of the surrounding mountains, then I thought I must really be in the middle of nowhere.
It feels absolutely freeing being in an almost untouched land, very far from everything and yet not scared of getting lost.


Desert of the Gobi, Mongolia


The host and his camels

The host family was a small Mongolian family with 2 very curious kids joined by 2 horses and 3 camels.
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Just few minutes after having left the capital, Mongolia looks completely different from the chaotic and stressful Ulanbataar.
Where just not long ago there was a sea of cars and buildings, now there is nothing but an empty vastness and an almost serene quietness.


Mongolian Fur Trader

We are headed to the Gobi Desert to stay with a local family for the night.
Our car speeding over the frozen roads makes the journey even more exciting and wild, as there are very few other vehicles.
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