Gyeongbok Palace (Gyeongbokgung) in Spring

This isn’t the first time I visit this palace, but being spring, and with this good weather, this visit deserved a post with some pictures. Besides, if I am not wrong, after the Namdaemun was burned away, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is probably the most important tourist attraction left in Seoul.

DSC_5117
This is the place where the king used to rest in summer. It’s completely open and surrounded by this lake so that his majesty could be really cool.

DSC_5122
I guess it’s on this small boat how you get to the palace on the lake.

DSC_5111
His majesty’s throne.

DSC_5112
Detail of the columns.

DSC_5144
Another of the palace’s lakes whose aspect had improved a lot with the arrival of spring.

DSC_5145
I thought this was a nice picture, don’t you think? (UPDATE: It’s funny who this picture differs from these other from Kirai. Korean and Japanese cultures, while being similar, have quite a lot of differences: while in Japan he is the one and only king, in Korea she is definitely the princess.)

DSC_5133
Another couple enjoying the good weather at the palace. I couldn’t tell whether the guy is dressing as a tiger or as Pikachu… in any case, he could have more style 😉

DSC_5149
Already outside of the palace, we found this temple with the typical buddha’s birthday decoration, the same that we saw during our trip to Yeoju.

Trip to Mongolia (from Beijing)

Day 1: Arrive in Beijing and Bus to Erenhot (Border with Mongolia)

We arrived in Beijing in the morning. At the airport Ga-Young was waiting for us and took us to the bus station to get our bus tickets to Erenhot, the border with Mongolia. After we got the tickets, we had around four hours left to hang around Beijing, so we headed to Tiananmen, took some pictures, had some Peking Duck for lunch, and back to the bus station.

P1090896
In China! 😀

IMG_ 023
At Tiananmen Square, from left to right, Ga-Young, Jairo, I, and Pablo.

IMG_ 050
Ready to take the bed-bus to Erenhot.

Day 2: Crossing the Border with Mongolia and taking the night train

Next day in the morning, we arrived in Erenhot, the last Chinese city before crossing the border to Mongolia. When we got off the bus, there were dozens of drivers offering us to cross the border with us in their Russian 4WD’s.

DSC_1266
Jairo with our driver and his car.

IMG_ 113
Already in Mongolia, playing pool while we waited for the train that would take us to the capital, Ulan Bator.

P1100100
It was so hot inside the train. No air conditioning and because the windows had to be open all the time and we were actually crossing the Gobi Desert, it was so dusty…

P1100115
The train wasn’t very comfortable either. Here I am trying to get some sleep with Pablo and my Korean book.

Day 3: Arriving in Ulan Bator, Camel Riding, and First Night in a Ger

After being in the train for the whole night, we arrived in Ulan Bator, where Seggie, our tour guide picked us up. Very few people speak English in Ulan Bator, and if you moved to the countryside like we did, you really need a guide and a driver if you don’t want to get lost in the middle of nothing.

DSC_1389
My first experience with a Mongolian restroom… It’s worse than it seems :S

P1100203
Camel riding… in sandals!

Day 4: Karakorum and Rock Formations

On the 4th day we headed to Karakorum, the old capital of the Mongol Empire.

DSC_1483
Mongolian Ger (a.k.a. yurt).

DSC_1515
A typical Mongolian family going to the Erdene Zuu Monastery, in Karakorum.

DSC_1516
Entrance to the monastery.

IMG_ 322
For the first time in my life, I rode a horse 🙂

IMG_ 338
Probably the most awesome rainbow that I’ve ever seen.

Day 5: Volcano and Lake

This day we drove a lot. I don’t know how many kilometers, but eventually we arrived at Khorgo Volcano. After climbing to the top of the volcano, and going down to it’s crater, we went swimming to a lake nearby, where we spent the night and took some rest.

P1100335
At the top of the volcano.

DSC_1788
Right at the crater of the volcano.

DSC_1800
The lake where we swam (just awesome!).

Day 6: Driving Day

More driving.. although we were supposed to stop an another lake, this day wasn’t very warm for swimming, so we decided to just keep driving back to Karakorum, where we spend the night at a tourist camp, (which means that we could enjoy a shower and common toilets!!)

IMG_ 470
I got to drive for a while on Mongolian non-paved roads.

DSC_1854
Beautiful sunset in Karakorum.

Day 7: Wild Horses at Hustai Pational Park

This was one of the best experiences in our trip. Mongolia is the only country in the world where you can see truly wild horses. As opposed to the American Mustang or the Australian Brumby, the Mongolian Wild Horse, Przewalski’s Horse, or simply Takhi (which means “spirit”, and is how Mongolians call them) has never been successfully domesticated.

DSC_1949
Family of wild Mongolian horses.

DSC_1955
The three adventurers with the wild horses on the background.

Day 8: Ulan Bator

In our last day in Mongolia we decide to head back to Ulan Bator, and do some shopping before going to the airport and fly to Beijing and then back to Seoul. From what we saw, Ulan Bator is not such an interesting city. Quite dusty because of the close Gobi Desert, and full of old ugly and poor looking buildings, although we also saw that this city is developing very fast, with many new buildings being built.

DSC_1983
The only picture I took this day (at a store which sells all kinds of products made of Mongolian wool).. Gracias Seggie! 🙂