Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pad Thai in Thailand!

At 3 am, we arrive to Bangkok an take a taxi to the oh-so-famous Kho San road. This road is a backpackers haven due to the massive amount of bars and party scene that take place on nightly basis. Not having a reservation, we book a room at an awful hostel that appeared to be run-down. At this point, all we wanted was sleep. The next morning we wake and book a room at D & D Inn, Nils highly recommended this place if we were ever to come to Bangkok. This place was an upscale hostel with reasonable prices and awesome rooms. After settling into our room, we roamed the streets in search for Pad Thai. We had to walk quite a ways from the center of Kho San Road to find the perfect place. It was awesome to see the process that goes into making such a wonderful dish. For the past two days, we have been in search for a suit and planning my birthday. We have had luck with both of these tasks. Today, Jay found the perfect place to tailor his suit and I found the perfect island for my birthday. We will be traveling to the island of Kho Chang on Friday where we will be staying at a bungalow right on the beach. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! On the 24th, we will return to Bangkok to finalize Jay's suit and fly to Tokyo, Japan on the 28th.

Chengdu-Beautiful Pandas!

As we enter Chengdu, we feel complete overwhelmed with the size of the city. We imagined it to be much smaller than it actually was. It was completely ultra-modern with many shopping centers and malls lining the streets. We come to our hostel, which appears to be very laid-back and filled with conversations of travel. Immediately, we get information regarding Tibetan permits and book the panda tour for the next day. The office ensured us that our permits would be ready on Monday. Therefore, we could depart for Tibet by either plane or train. At this time, train tickets were not in existence due to the high number of people traveling to Tibet. Jay inquired about the black market. The hostel said that it was illegal to buy tickets from the black market, but good luck if you can find it. Jay had a mission to find tickets any way possible. Later that evening, we had an intellectual conversation with a couple that we met from Mongolia, Syl and Ben.
The next day we rose early for the Panda tour. About 10 km north of Chengdu, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, is a research station and breeding ground for giant and lesser pandas. About 40 pandas reside here, but we only saw about half of this number. We were able to see the traditional black and white adult and baby pandas, and rare red pandas. We watched the adult pandas roll around on their ready made wooden long beds and the baby pandas eat their massive amounts of bamboo. These were absolutely amazing animals.
After we returned from the panda tour, we met Syl and Ben for a hike around the city to the People's Park. This is a vast park with beautiful landscaped bonsai trees and gardens. Throughout the park, there are verandas were people sing and dance to music. Jay and Ben partook in this by dancing with some Chinese women. We also has some horrible tea at the tea house located in the park. According to the map from the hostel, this is suppose to be one of the best places to have tea in Chengdu. Boy, are they wrong! As we hiked back to the hostel, we decided to have a traditional Chinese hotpot of the Sichuan region. A hot pot works like this: First, you pick out the food that you would like to cook in your hot pot. Then, a waiter brings you a pot filled with a broth of chillies, Sichuan pepper, ginger, and many other spices. They also bring you chili oil for dipping after your food is cooked to your liking. Parsley and garlic is brought for you to put into your chili oil to control the spiciness. The hotpot simmers and you cook the food. Jay and Syl started the hotpot process by going around to various tables picking and choosing the food to be placed in our hotpot. They chose an assortment of tasty foods: sweet potatoes, potatoes, a vegetable we could not figure out, beef, mutton, tofu, squid, and fish. After about 5 minutes of cooking and eating the food, your lips and tongue start to become numb and tingly. By the end of the evening, we were all red and sweating bullets from this fiery meal. Next to our table, a group of Chinese men are playing a drinking card game and eagerly invite us over. We played this game for about two hours and became friends. Tons of pictures are taken and numbers are exchanged for future visits to China and the Americas.
Due to the massive amount of fun from the night before, we decided to take it easy the next day. We lounged around the hostel watching movies and eating spicy food. Later that evening, we went and watched Transformers with Edward (an extremely helpful guy from the hostel) and his younger brother Will.
The following day, Jay insisted on finding train tickets to Lhasa, Tibet. A staff member from the hostel escorted him to the train station in hopes of getting tickets from the ticket counter. All tickets were sold out. Therefore, Jay and the staff member went on the streets asking around for tickets. Jay was able to find two tickets to Lhasa for Monday. He returned to the hostel displaying his glory in his ability to get tickets. The hostel immediately says that they are unable to give us our permits because we got our train tickets from the black market. Furious, Jay attempted to talk them into letting us have our permits. They stood strong and expressed that they would be unable to do so. Therefore, Jay asked for his money back for the permits and sold the train tickets to some one else. At this time, Jay and I were faced with a decision..."What do we do next?" We think of many possibilities until Jay asks me where I would I like to go for my birthday. Before, I know it we are heading on a plane to Bangkok, Thailand for Pad Thai.


We arrived to Xi'an early in the morning and settled into our hostel. The plan for the day was to go to Bingmayong to explore the Terracotta Warriors. Ranking up there with the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, the 2,000 year old army remains stunningly well preserved. The vigilant force stands guarding the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang. There are three vaults to view the massive archaeological site. The most impressive underground vault is the first. The 6000 terracotta figures of warriors and horses face east in a rectangle battle array. They appeared to be ready for battle at any moment. Some solders appeared to have crossbows and longbows. While other armoured soldiers have spears, dagger-axes, and other long-shaft weapons. Every solider differs in facial features and expressions. After leaving this place, it made me feel that I was ready for battle at any moment.
Later that evening, we ran into our buddies, Rob, Nick, and Dave from England. We explored the city and made our way from the Bell and Drum Tower to the Muslim Quarter. The Bell Tower is a huge building the marks the center of Xi'an. To the west of the Bell Tower is a smaller building, the Drum Tower, marks the beginning of the Muslim Quarter. Here we walked the backstreets to find tea and an interesting Islamic food market. Later that night, we said good-bye to our friends and hoped that we would meet again in Tibet, Nepal, and India.
The next day, we attempted to sort out our train tickets and buy plane tickets to Chengdu. We were not in the mood for traveling 17 hours in an hard seat.
Before our flight the next day, we went to the Great Mosque. This mosque was one of the largest in China. It is built in a Chinese architectural style with most of the grounds taken up by beautiful gardens. This is an active place to worship, it holds several prayer services each day. We were only able to visit the courtyard of the mosque, only Muslims may enter the prayer hall.
Around 9:30pm, we were on the train heading to Chengdu to see pandas and get our Tibetian permits.

The Great Wall!

We spent approximately two weeks in Beijing, China. So, I'm going to try to sum up our adventure in this next post. On the 30th, Saturday, we took the metro, then the bus to the "Dirt Market." Here people are selling everything from beautiful beads to giant stone Buddhas. The market has rows and rows of vendors attempting to sell you Chinese goods. We walked down each row looking for special gifts for our family and friends back home. I can't give you details, because it would ruin the surprise.
The next day we went back to the dirt market to finalize the sale. We had numerous cups of tea and discussed our travels. The fascinating thing is the people who we were talking to did not speak any English. This was a wonderful experience! After numerous hours at the dirt market, we went to the Sanlitun Yashou Market. This market had 5 floors of all the clothing one may need. We shopped around, but all the salespeople were extremely pushy. Every time you would walk away from a negotiation, the person would attempt to leach onto you.
Later that evening, we went to a local restaurant not far from our hostel for dinner. The table and chairs sat outside in the middle of the road. This place was really enticing as the waitresses worked really hard to reel you in. This meal was amazing and authentic too! As we walked passed a barber shop, Jay decided to get a buzz cut. The barber did not speak English, but Jay was able to get the message across.
The following day we strolled through Tiananmen Square. This vast stone public square lies at the heart of Beijing. Kites fluttered through the sky, as people attempted to sell them to you. In the middle of this square lies the symbolic center of the Chinese universe. The rectangular arrangement echoes the layout of the Forbidden City. Once you pass this rectangular monument, you have to walk under the subway to actually get to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is the largest and best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China. It was home to two dynasties of emperors, the Ming and Qing. This place was massively huge in every way from the door ways to the gardens. We were extremely impressed with the architecture. However, we did not find the museum and audio guide helpful in understanding the ruling of the dynasty.
After spending a half day exploring the city, we made our way to the Jingshan Park. Here we climbed the rocky path through the beautiful garden for a magnificent panorama view of the capital and an overview of the russet roofing of the Forbidden City.
Later that evening, we had a wonderful dinner at our hostel. Yummy sweet and sour chicken with stir-fried vegetables!
The next day, we ventured out to the long distance bus station. We had all intentions of going to the Great Wall. Here we met Nils, Ally, Breda, and Ralph. After long negotiation with the driver, actually Jay got the price down to 420y by playing rock, paper, and scissors, we were on our way. Approximately five minutes later, our driver gets pulled over by the police. Two police officers get into our van and being driving to the police station. Here a police officer questioned us about our driver and the rate we were charged to go the Great Wall. Apparently, our driver did not pay his taxes on his van and therefore was arrested. During more questioning, Jay and I went to the restroom. When we returned everyone was out of the van. Nils explained that the driver pulled out a vegetable knife and ran towards the van. The police officers had to tackle him to the ground. Therefore, Nils thought it would be a good idea to get out of the van. The police officer attempted to find us another driver, but he had no luck. As a group, we decided that today must have not been the right day to explore the Great Wall.
So, we went with Nils and Ally to the Lama Temple and the Temple of Heaven Park. The Lama Temple is the most renomwed Tibetian Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. This is Beijing's most colorful temple: beautiful rooftops, stunning frescoes, magnificent decorative arches, and incredible architecture. The temple's Most prized possession is its 55 foot high sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha. We couldn't believe that it was all one piece of wood. Next, we took a taxi to the Temple of Heaven Park. This is the most prime example of Ming architecture. We walked around this park, but did not have any desire to enter any of the temples. It was just too expensive and we were exhausted from the day. Later that night, we attempted to meet up with Nils and Ally, but we were too slow in getting dressed and missed them by the skins of our teeth. However, we met a guy named Lee, from England, who came with us the next day to the Great Wall.
Once again, we ventured out to the long distance bus station. This time we had an extra commrade, Lee. There we found Nils, Ally, Ralph, and Breda ready for the Great Wall. Once we arrived to the Great Wall at Jinshnaling, we set out for the 10 km hike to Simatai. Here we climbed through parts of the Great Wall where it was steep and stony. Many parts of the wall collapsed and and much was in a state of ruin. We actually passed a couple of workers re-constructing the wall. The view was absolutely amazing as you could see the Great Wall winding before your eyes. To the left and right of the Great Wall, you could see perfectly landscaped tress and bright green grassland. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Numerous times, we had difficulties realizing that we were actually climbing on one of the seven wonders of the world.
After the long journey to Simatai, the driver picked us up and drove us back to the long distance bus station. We were absolutely beat from the days hike and went immediately to bed.
The next couple of days consisted of relaxing. We met Nils and Ally for lunch and hung out with them until departure for their train to Xian, China. We had awesome conversation...they are two very cool people. Also, we hung out with Ralph and Breda a couple of times before we parted ways. One evening, we decided to go out on Sanitlun Road, which happens to be "Bar Street." The clubs that we went too were more like laser light shows with males dancing with one another. However, we were denied entrance into the "World of Suzie Wong." According to the description in the Lonely Planet book, this place is for "beautiful people" to be. As we approach this place, everyone is dressed very glamorous. We are wearing flip flops, tanks tops, and shorts. Basically, we were not dressed "beautiful"enough. Therefore, we came to a conclusion: "You know you are a real backpacker when you are denied admittance into the World of Suzie Wong." Two days later, we took a 13 hour train ride to Xian, China.

Peking Duck!

The train journey to Beijing was over 30 hours long. However, we were kept company by our new Mongolian friend, Bayanmunch. He was travelling to Beijing to have a CD made. His girlfriend was a Mongolian opera singer, which is new in the realm of music for Mongolia, and he was the song writer. I guess you could say this was a "new song," not a traditional song or short song.
Caroline and Nick were a couple of rooms down, so we talked to them frequently. We met for drinks and breakfast the following day.
The border crossing was a breeze, because we slept through the majority of it. I guess we were still tired from our excursion.
As you cross the border into China, you are taken away by the beautiful landscape of the rocky mountains and perfectly shaped tress. Everything here is a very luscious and bright green. As we approach closer to Beijing, you start to see small rivers engraved between mountains and rich forest land. Also, we had the luxury of witnessing small parts of the Great Wall. This was a spectacular sight as we knew we were going to step foot on this great wonder.
We arrived in Beijing around 2pm and said our good-byes to Caroline and Nick. We hoped to meet up with them later in the city.
We made our way to the hostel via metro and rickshaw. Jay was very good at negotiating the price. But, later we find out that taking a taxi is much cheaper. Actually, we mostly walked everywhere unless we were with friends.
We explored the streets in an attempt to find something for dinner. We stumbled upon Wangfujing Dajie, which is a posh area lined with huge shopping malls. On this street, we found a restaurant called Quanjude Roast Duck. Here they specialized in Peking duck, given the region. We ordered a half duck with pancakes, scallions, garlic, celery, and sauce. You use these ingredients to create somewhat of a wrap. This meal was definitely an interesting and wonderful experience. After dinner, we roamed the area of the Wangfujing Snack street. Walking upon this area you are presented with an ornate archway outlined with bright colors of red, blue, green, and yellow. The street is lined with restaurants and street vendors bursting with character and flavor. Here you will find an array of food, like fried scorpions on a stick, candied fruit on a stick, and many noodle dishes. The vendors constantly try to solicit tourists by using the only English they know, "Hello, do you like?". If you seemed interested, they they would attempt to negotiate with you. We strolled back to the hostel and went to sleep with a full belly of roasted duck.

Hanging out!

For two days, we had to hang out in Ulan-bator before we could travel to Beijing, China. We ate some phenomenal food and met two new amazing people, Breda and Ralph, a German-Swiss couple. Little did we know that we would run into them later in Beijing.
While in Ulan-bator, we visited the Natural History Museum. Here we learned about the nature and wildlife of Mongolia. But, I have to say our favorite exhibit throughout the entire museum was the dinosaur skeletons. It was WICKED! Oh yeah, Jay shaved his beard off. He was afraid it would cause some crazy tan lines!

It's coming to an end!

For breakfast, the family served rolled bread in the form of a rectangle. These were very hard and we only ate a few. The journey this day was over 300 km. Therefore, we got an early start. We thanked the family (bile-tha) and gave our gift to the grandmother. The sky was a beautiful bright blue with little clouds insight and the grassland was bright green. It looked as if some one spray painted it. There were many animals, such as goats, sheep, and horses roaming. After about a hour, we stopped at Ogiy Lake. The water appeared to be a dark blue-green color and the sand was black. This spot appeared to be a hot spot for camping as there were many people and tents surrounding the lake. For lunch, we stop at a local canteen and Migaa helped us order fried noodles and vegetable soup. Mishka shared his apple soda with everyone. It was quite nice. From the distance, we could see the town of the home stretch now! Traffic getting into town was complete chaos. A railroad crossing went down and cars started to pile on top of one another. As the crossing went up, cars ransacked one another. Mishka plowed right through. In the U.S, we have something called a Que! Jay and I observed one car hit another car and both drivers laughed at one another. What a crazy city! At least our driver knew what he was doing! It was sad that our journey to the countryside had to end. What a wonderful opportunity for us to experience the countryside and nomadic lifestyle for 12 days. But, we were stoked about the hot shower! That evening we had a phenomenal dinner at Broadway Pizza. We ordered Korean food, pizza, and salad. What a treat! Later that night, we met two new roomies, Nils and Ally. A German couple travelling around the world ending up in New Zealand to teach scuba diving and wake boarding. We exchanged contact information and planned to meet up in Beijing.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Our long journey was coming to an end as today was the 11th day. Mixed emotions run through my mind. Happy, because a shower is near. Sad, because I will miss the simplicity of the nomadic family and the beautiful countryside with various landscapes and animals.
For breakfast, we had another loaf of homemade bread. Just as delicious as the day before! Today's journey began with a lake view of "o-was." Here there were multiple "o-was" that in the future would become one large "o-wa." Next, we stopped at two grottos. These were called Prisoner of the Dogs and Ice Cave. Both grottos were developed due to an volcanic eruption number of years ago. Before actually beginning our long van ride, we made a stop at the massive Hide Away volcano. We climbed up through the rocks, rubble, and trees to get to the crater. The volcano is approximately 5,000 to 8,000 years old, 250 meters in diameter, and 150 meters deep with a 35 to 60 degree incline. People climbed below to continue with the building of an "o-wa." A Mongolian lady surrounded by local children recited a beautiful poem to us about the volcano. We sat on the side of the crater taking in the view as this was our first time seeing a volcano. Our journey took 10 hours including many potty breaks and stopping at a local market. At the local market, Mishka bought presents for tonight's accommodation. Migaa informed us that we were staying with another UB driver's grandmother. Mishka appeared to know the road travelled, because he was driving like a "bat out of hell." He was very happy upon arrival as he had a huge grin from ear to ear. We arrived to the ger and were instantly greeted by the family. They appeared to be humble, but shy. The ger was very beautiful with detailed lace and silk curtains and wooden beds painted with vivid colors and detailed designs. For dinner, the family served homemade noodles with carrots, potatoes, and pickles. Migaa rounded us up to participate in goat herding. All family members participated in this event. We were unable to figure out the method for herding the goats together. However, we came to the conclusion that the babies and mothers were separated from one other for the milking in the morning. This was a wonderful experience to be a part of. Later that evening we met a 15 year old named Chiabat. He was currently taking the summer break from school. He had one month left in the country side and will go to Singapore to study English and travel. He asked us many questions regarding our personal lives and travel. You could tell his motive was to practice his English speaking skills, which I have to say we were quite impressed. He was delightful and very well spoken.

The Tranquility of White Lake!

We were awoken by a family member putting wood into the stove. For breakfast, we had slices of bread. Migaa later informed us that the family made the bread homemade. It had nice holes! (Jessi taught us all about bread during her two weeks with us.) The morning began with horse riding for an hour and half. All of the horses had bright and shiny coats with beautiful thick manes and tails. My horse was tan with a chestnut mane and tail. Jay's horse was chestnut with a black mane and tail. Caroline helped me by giving a brief lesson on how to hold the rope properly and what to do if the horse begins to gallop or trot too quickly. She was very informative and use to ride when younger.
As began walking our horses, my body tingled with excitement and worry. The beauty of the lake and sand was very peaceful and tranquil. My horse was extremely stubborn and wanted to constantly eat grass. He did not want to listen to any of my commands. Migaa told my guide to escort my horse. The next thing you know, I'm riding next to the guide while he is singing a Mongolian Folk song. I wanted control of my own horse! Thanks Migaa! Eventually, the guide let me have control of my own horse. At this time, Caroline takes off galloping with her horse. The others attempt to follow (she looked like a pro). I didn't like this at all. Emotions of afraid and scared run through my body as my horse begins to trot. I haven't graduated to this stage of horse riding! All of the horses slow down to walk and I became extremely happy. As we approach the family's house, the horses began to sped up to a trot. Caroline and her horse speed up to a gallop, the guide does as well, and Nick follows. I had to control mine to stay walking and Jay stayed back to keep me company. He's such a sweetheart! Overall the experience was wonderful even though there were many times that I was extremely terrified. However, I feel that I would like to take riding horses, so that I am able to conquer my fear of riding horses. I believe that I could learn to enjoy riding and appreciate horses so much more, besides their beauty.
Migaa came along on the journey, but quickly resorted to walking her horse. She disclosed that she had a complete of bad experiences with horses in the past. However, we were very proud of her that she had the courage to get on a horse.
After lunch, we had a siesta. Then, around 3pm we went for a hike up the mountain. We saw an alpine rich forest with a loud cuckoo bird singing. At the mountain ridge line, there was a phenomenal view of the lake. You could see the lake stretch for miles and miles. We continued walking along the rocky mountains and saw rubar and Scottish twistel. Behind a mountain of rocks, there was a beautiful single tree with long branches filled with rich green leaves. As we walked down mountain ridge line to the Ger, Jay and Nick decide to go into the lake. We all change and head to the lake. Jay and Nick jump in the freezing water. Caroline and I did not partake in this, because of the massive amount of poop floating at the top of the lake. Once again we took bids on dinner. Nick guessed buoz, Jay thought it would be pasta, Caroline wanted it to be like the night before, and I hoped for noodles. And the winner was... ME! Dinner was noodles with carrots, potatoes, and beef. After dinner, we made the short journey to the Grandfather Rock. It was depicted as a Mongolian man smoking his pipe. Legend has it that he is waiting for his wife to return to the lake. Here it was harmonious and magical. The moon shimmered onto the pure blue water and above the mountain ridge the blue sky appeared to have pink hues where the sun had just begun to set. It sounded as if the quacking ducks, the soft breeze rustling against the water, the buzzing insects, and croaking frogs were composing a song just for us. In the distance you could hear random horses "naying." This was the most beautiful sounds one could hear. We fell asleep to the crackling fire! Today, we were extremely tired from the long hike. However, it was well worth the views.

100% BETTER!

Caroline and Jay were feeling 100% better today. They appeared to be ready for the day's long journey. For breakfast sugar cookies were served. Believe me Jay and Nick took these for the road. The first stop was the Stone Turtle. This turtle represented the protection of the people. Before the revolution, there use to be four turtles surrounding the Erdene Zuu monastery. The next stop was a Phallic Rock, translated the Vagina Slope. There are three legends associated with this rock. The first legend is a woman is waiting for a man while he is away at war. The second is a local woman and monk fell in love. Of course, this was not allowed due to religious reasons. The third legend is that local families would pray to the rock to conceive children, fertility. This was unusual and unexpected to see such a sculpture in Mongolia.
On our way to our third stop, we saw a high speed pig chase. Cows and Yaks were teaming up on a poor little sow. Migaa later told us that cows and yaks do not like pigs. Jay and I explained that cows and pigs live together happily on farms in the U.S. The third stop was Tseterleg(Garden) town. Here we ate lunch at a Westernized cafe. Western food, you say? The cafe was owned by an British couple from England. They had been there for over 10 years. The carrot cake was absolutely delicious! Oh yeah, they had a proper toilet!
The forth stop was the Chuluut Canyon. Massive rocks surrounded the bottom of this canyon with a river flowing north to south. The top of the canyon was surrounded by beautiful and rich pine trees. The view was absolutely amazing! Don't fall in! The final stop was the Khorgo Terk National Park. To get there we drove through winding rock valleys surrounded by mountainous pine forest. You could imagine the difficulty! We approached a volcano that was enclosed with beautiful green forests. The magnificent crater could be seen from the van. Next, we approached a beautiful fresh water lake surrounded by huge rocky mountains with rich pine forests. It felt as if you stepped into a different world. We followed the rocky road to our Ger and were greeted with pesky insects. The family had began a fire in the stove for us. It was nice and cozy until Migaa insisted on adding more wood to the fire. It instantly became blazing hot! For dinner, we had the luxury of having tofu with rice, carrots, and potatoes. After dinner, we had nice conversation over a bottle of red wine. Oh yeah, and desert. Jay and I had Carrot Cake, which I traded with Nick, and Caroline and Nick had an Apple Strudel. We discussed the differences between the American and English language. Caroline claims that American English is much older. As we are having the conversation, Migaa walks in. She began asking us questions regarding grammar and pronunciation. We discussed word like, happy, cool, snack, snake, beer, and bear. She tries immensely hard to use our language. We ended the English lesson and went to bed shorty after.

Kharkhorin Village!

This morning, breakfast consisted of bread with natural cow butter. Caroline and Jay immediately started not feeling well. We decided to wait two hours before departure, so they could rest. Jay gets inspected by a country doctor, who now is a driver for UB guesthouse. The doctor recommended for Jay to wear at hat due to sun exposure and to drink a shot of vodka before bedtime. He claimed that this was a country remedy. After the doctor visit, Caroline and Jay give the "thumbs up" to leave. The journey begins with sandy and rocky roads with rolling grassland. There are many herds of horses and sheep surrounding the grassy plains. We stop at a flowing waterfall with volcanic rocks surrounding the river. Behind the river, there was mountains with rich pine forest and grassland. Jay and I climbed down the rocks to the river to feel and smell the nature surrounding us. After about two hours, we finally arrived to Kharkhorin village. Before going to the Ger, we went to the Erdene Zuu Monastery. This monastery had 108 stupors surrounding the square of the monastery. The bright white stupors represented the Limas (students of Buddha) who died during the Revolution. The monastery had three temples built without a single nail. Each temple was in vibrant colors of green, blue, yellow, and red. The first temple was depicted as Buddha in the past, present, and future. The second temple depicted teenage Buddha, medicine Buddha, and paradise Buddha. A massive statue of the protector of evil guarded both sides of the temple. Also, there were four students on each side representing the learning process of following Buddha. The third temple depicted childhood Buddha, Indian Buddha, which represents the red sect, and Tibetan Buddha, which represents the yellow sect. These two sects are the most commonly practiced. Also, on the premises is a religious building where people can read and practice Buddhism. Migaa came along to translate the information from the tour guide. She appeared to have difficulties translating the exact phases and meanings. Majority of the way through, the tour guide began speaking with perfect English. Migaa was"lost in translation?"
Caroline and Jay did not partake in this learning adventure. Jay spent the majority of his time in the bathroom. Caroline stayed in the van, because she felt nauseated. She compared herself as a camel in terms of being thirsty.
We arrive to the Ger, which had to feel like an eternity for Jay and Caroline. Everyone took turns taking showers. A barrel at the top of the building acted as the main water source for the shower. It was nice to feel clean from all of the dust flying in the van and the various sand storms that we had to fight through. Dinner consisted of fried noodle with potato, red bell pepper, carrots, and beef. However, we actually think it was mutton, because the family's entire house smelt of it. Caroline refused to eat and Jay ate a small amount of fried noodles. We went to bed early, so that Caroline and Jay could recuperate.

Magnificent Waterfalls!

Besides the massive groups of dogs barking in the middle of the night, I slept extremely well. I must be getting accustomed to the hard beds. Breakfast consisted of nice rolls with Nutella. Jay insisted on buying this at the market the day before. Good buy!
We hop in the van and begin driving to the Waterfalls.
First, we approached beautiful rock formations that appeared to be place sporadically around bright green grassland. We asked Mishka to stop, so that we could take a photo off horses standing upon the rocks. We continue with the journey and drive into an area with small rivers flowing through grassland with yak, goat, and sheep roaming, playing, and sitting upon the river beds. We decided to have lunch in this beautiful area. The boys cooked pasta with red sauce for the six of us and of course the girls cleaned up. Remember, it's the law. While the boys were cooking, I sat and took in the view of this beautiful place. It's hard to believe that I would be able to experience such a wonderful journey.
We get back on the road and after about 10 minutes, the landscape completely changed to rich pine forest with bright green grass that had pure white, yellow, and orange flowers growing. It was like we stepped into Narnia. The boys decided to stop in the forest for a restroom break. Little did we know that this area was infested by bees! The boys came running back to the van immediately as they were being chased by the swarm of bees.
We continued with the journey and suddenly approached an area withmassive rocks that looked like they were from a volcanic eruption. Migaa claimed that 20,000 years ago a volcano use to be around this area. The grassland appeared to be full of nutrients from the eruption. In the distance, you could see rocky mountains with luscious pine forest. Many herds of sheep, yaks, and goats surrounded the valley-like area. There were many massive rocks, hills, and rivers that the van had to climb through. There was an indescribable feeling of falling in. However, we knew this would never happen, because we had a very experienced driver.
Finally, we arrive to the Ger. But, we were unable to stay with the family due to lack of space. Therefore, we had to stay in a nearby tourist camp. The family still provided food and boiling water. After settling in, we walk to the large waterfall. There was not any water flowing from this waterfall due to the lack of rain. But, one could imagine the sound and the smelling of the bustling water. Around the waterfall, there were trees that had blue scarves strung about it. Migaa said that this was to represent danger to others who come here. It looked much like and "o-wa." As you look at the bottom were the river would be, you see beautiful massive rocks with rich grassland and forest. This was such a tranquil place and we were completely absorbed in the nature. Next, we walked around to the smaller waterfall. On the way, we climbed over huge rocks and passed a enormous canyon filled with bright red clay. As we approach the smaller waterfall, we see two local children gathering water at the bank of the river. We watched and listened to the sounds of the water hitting the rocks and flowing into the river. A fish tried numerous times to jump up the rocks to swim up stream. What could possibly be better than were he was? A beautiful chestnut horse with a dark brown mane and tail approached the river bank to have drink of water. He was not alarmed by us and acted as if were not even there. He continued with his journey and crossed the river to the mountain top. Migaa began skipping rocks and Jay and Nick joined in. Caroline and I sat upon the rocks taking in this specular view of nature. After about 20 minutes, it was time to get back to the Ger for dinner. Dinner was buoz with cow meat and rice. We had light conversation and retired for bed early.

Central Mongolia!

On this day, we woke early to watch the sun rise. When you walked out of the Ger, you could feel the cool southeast wind hit your face. To the left the sky appeared to have a bright neon pink hue. Jay and I wrapped up in a pink blanket and patiently waited for the sun to appear. The sky then began to fill with a neon orange and appeared to be playing with us as she was peaking over the horizon and then the hue faded away. After playing this game, she finally decided to show herself by peaking over the horizon between two rocky mountains with a bright orange color. This sunrise was absolutely amazing! Our first sunrise in the Gobi!
For breakfast, we had dry pancake-like bread with peaches, which we kindly added. Leaving the Gobi desert is marked by a huge mountain heading to the west, Central Mongolia.
As soon as we began our journey to Central Mongolia, the van began to have mechanic problems. Of course, Jay instigated the problem and attempted to help Mishka. Migaa helped by translating theconversation between the two. Another van associated with UB stops to help with the situation. In the end, the fuel was bad.
Herds of cows, goats, sheep, camels, and horses sporadically pass in front of the view. The view is amazing looking through a narrow valley of rock mountains. Mishka navigated through this valley nearly all day. There were a coupe of times we thought we would crash into the side of the mountains!
We arrived to Arvaikheer town, which appeared to be more modernized than the last village, Bayanzag. Immediately we went to the market, Internet, and public shower. This was our second shower in three days! Once back to the Ger, the grandmother of the family greeted. We offered her coffee and biscuits. She gladly accepted and we communicated through charades with her; she asked about the bumpy ride. She appeared to be a friendly and humble person. The family dog hung outside of our Ger as Nick gave him food at coffee and dinner time. Nick is completely obsessed with dogs! For dinner, we had rice with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and mutton. Indeed, this meal was very tasty! After dinner, the grandmother and grandfather came into the Ger and attempted to discuss the sleeping arrangements. They were concerned with the comfort of the beds. Out of this, we determined that I was the shortest between Caroline and Migaa. Therefore, I slept on the smaller of beds and Caroline slept on the floor. That evening I wasn't feeling well and laid around while Nick taught Jay how to play a new card game. Migaa appeared to become more comfortable in our presence as she talked about her experiences as a casino dealer in her college years. As we were heading to bed, she cracked jokes with us about waking up at 6am in the morning. We fell asleep to the sound of dogs barking in the distance.