After we checked into our hotel we first ventured out for lunch because we were starving. But what to eat first? You should know that Beijing is in Northern China, so the most famous dishes are with wheat rather than rice. So that means lots of buns, noodles, and dumplings! We decided to just venture out and stop somewhere that looked good. That brought us to a delicious hot pot restaurant!
Because I was so happy with our hotel in Beijing, I decided to make an entire post about the Beijing Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel! Our hotel is located in the hutongs: centuries-old, tree-lined alleyways that are the true heartbeat of this unique city and a real-life link to its fascinating past. We had so much fun exploring/accidentally exploring because we got very lost amonst all of the hutongs (there’s not Google Maps in China).
The location is perfect, the hotel is beautiful, and the staff is so nice and friendly.
Our last day in Mongolia was my favorite day. I went to Mongolia hoping to experience the nomadic life and was able to in the end. We started the day very early, so we could be on time to see how the cows and yaks are milked before they set off wandering the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Inside the ger we were able to try yak milk tea, yak cream, and yak curd!
We were also so lucky that the weather changed during the night. Still a bit cold, but we had a blue sky and sunshine!
Although the snow and the cold temperatures made us cancel our trip into the mountains of northern Mongolia, we chose instead to explore Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and hike up to the Ariyabal Meditation Temple, where we crossed the “Bridge of Heaven” and climbed 108 stone stairs that lead to the main temple with 108 small stupas and 108 prayer wheels around the temple.
Our guide suggested we visit the National Museum of Mongolia during our trip to Ulaanbaatar. This museum is responsible for preserving Mongolian cultural heritage as well as defining the guidelines for museums in the rest of the country. The museum has a wide scope of history, beginning in prehistory up into the present. The biggest highlights for me were the section on Mongolian traditional dress and the 1990 Mongolian Revolution.
How we wound up in a ger in Ulaanbaatar is something I still don’t completely understand, but we tried our best to make the most of it. We decided to book a more authentic Mongolian experience by booking a ger, along with a guide and cook for our stay. The photos on the site showed a farm a few hours outside of Ulaanbaatar where we could experience the nomadic lifestyle, with more than 50 yaks and a few horses which we could ride. The advertisement stated that we could relax on the farm, visit the watering hole, ride horses, help out etc. We were looking forward to our nomadic Mongolian experience!
If you plan on taking the Trans-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian Express and plan to stop in Siberia, Irkutsk is the city most recommended. Irkutsk is full of history and is just an hour away from Lake Baikal. It’s also nicknamed the “Paris of Siberia”.
When Koen and I decided to make a stop in Siberia, Irkutsk was the obvious destination to spend a few days because of its proximity to Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, containing 23% of the world’s fresh surface water (also the world’s deepest lake, the world’s clearest lake, and the world’s oldest lake)! There were a few options of which city to visit to see Lake Baikal, and in the end we chose Listvyanka, the ‘French Riveria of Siberia’.
At 23:55 Tuesday night, our train was set to depart – next stop Irkutsk in Siberia!
The train ride from Moscow to Irkutsk was the longest leg of our train trip, leaving Tuesday evening and arriving Saturday morning. We were sure to pack plenty of snacks, download a lot of books for our Kindles, and bring the tripod for our camera to take plenty of photos of the Russian countryside.
Our last stop before boarding the Trans-Siberian Express was the Danilovsky Market to pick up delicious treats and snacks for the train. I first saw the Danilovsky Market on the Chef’s Table’s episode about Vladimir Mukhin when he went shopping with his daughter. I didn’t know the name of the market, but once we started researching where to go I recognized it right away and knew that’s where we should go before taking off for Siberia!