The journey from Beijing went smoothly and by early morning, I reached the center of Qingdao.
The city is quite modern with many interesting features to make it stand out from the rest.

Whilst the downtown is rather unimpressive, the seaside is what makes this little coastal town excel.
With a 40.6km path, the seaside should be fully traversed to fully enjoy the mix of architecture styles, natural beauties and bits of history still present in the area.
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The Temple of Heaven makes great use of colors and space to convey the importance this location had in Ancient China. Surrounded by a beautiful park (straightforwardly named Temple of Heaven Park) and, often, by storms of tourists, it dominates the scene. As well as being a temple, it is an imperial complex containing multiple structures and buildings.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

In fact, as the name hints, this temple is where emperors, regarded as Tiānzǐ (literally Son of Heaven), would go to connect with Heaven to pray for good harvest. Two special ceremonies were held here each year: one on winter solstice and the other on New Year’s Day. The winter solstice ceremony was deemed of utmost importance, any imperfection would be a bad omen for the harvest of the entire year.

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During my stay in Beijing, I hung out with my two Argentinian travel mates and their local friend who they had met back in Europe.
Extremely friendly, easygoing and like-minded, he showed us bits of student life, excellent food and places.

After mentioning our interest in visiting the Great Wall, he told us he would bring us to a less well known spot near the village Changyucheng, as other parts of the wall can get crowded and partially icy.

A moment after sunset – View from the top of the mountain

And so our team, equipped with excitement, cameras and very little else, jumped into the car to head to Changyucheng.
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Tiananmen square is a majestic and wide area which connects to the Forbidden City through Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
Now commonly connected to the massacre which occurred during student protests of 1989, the square has quite a long history.

Built in 1415 during the Ming dynasty, it went through many renovations including an expansion by Mao Zedong in 1958, who wanted to make it the most spectacular square in the world.
After Mao’s death, a mausoleum in his honour has been built on Tiananmen Square.
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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 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.