The Summer Palace in Beijing, and a duck

About the only thing Amy and I had on tap today was the Summer Palace. For this, we took three subways and a (decent) taxi to the location. Total cost: about 30 yuan, and about 30 minutes. The palace entrance was crowed with about half the population of Beijing, it seemed. High for a weekday, but we soon realized why…
There’ve been storms here the last few days. Big ones. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm in a long time. The rains, it seems, have washed away the all the haze and pollution that’s been hovering around the area for the last few days. (We should have gone to the Wall today, but c’est la vie.) This made The Summer Palace near perfect for visiting today. It wasn’t too hot, there was a great breeze (almost to the point of calling it “windy”) and the sky was actually blue (instead of the usual white with a blue tinge).
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Enter the Forbidden City

My calf muscles are killing me. I don’t know how many stairs Noah, Justin, and I climbed yesterday, but I swear my calves have never received such a workout in their existences. And now they’re taking their revenge on me. Even small stairs hurt … a lot. They’re rocks attached to the backs of my legs. They don’t flex, they pulse. Forget the Stairmaster, folks! If you want a great workout, spend the money on a trip to China, then visit three different sections and walk as much of it as you can. Your legs will be cut out of stone in days.
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Adventures in Mongolia

We’re back in Ulaan Baatar after a few days out in the Mongolian wilderness. It’s a brief return — we hit the #24 train to Beijing at 8:00 tomorrow morning. (It’s about 21:30 right now, as I’m writing this.)
Without question, Mongolia has been the highlight of this adventure. Unless something really spectacular comes up that somehow manages to sway us (which I doubt will happen), then Mongolia will be the thing on the trip. Also without question, we would heartily recommend coming to Mongolia (and soon, before the rest of the world discovers how cool this country is) and signing up with Nomadic Journeys. They take far too good care of you.
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Turning Japanese Again, Touring Tokyo (still)

The alarm went off early. Earlier than usual, anyway. Jen was still sleeping, so I thought I’d let her sleep a bit longer. But at 9:00, I got her going.
Unforunately, Jen started off with a killer headache, so she didn’t move very quickly. Compound to that a very irregular bus schedule and not being able to catch a limited express to Tokyo wound up pretty much killing the point of today’s journey — going to Nikko.
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Turning Japanese Again, Shinkansen to Tokyo

More tofu for breakfast. Blech. Well, not so much blech as bland and really not what I’d like to eat first thing in the morning. Jen didn’t eat much.
Today we’re back to Tokyo (and Yotsukaido). But first, we wanted to do a little touring around. And I do mean “little”. Specifically, two stops up the Karasuma line to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. I really wanted to see what it’s like in there.
But first, we had to pack up and check out. Which wasn’t easy — we’d spread ourselves all over the room. Although it didn’t take me long to pack, Jen had to take a bit longer out of necessity. It’s safe to say that, either way, both of us officially have too much stuff.
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My Trip to Japan, Imperial Palace and Ueno Park

Today was my last full day in Japan. There was so much I still wanted to see and do. I couldn’t do everything … but I darn well tried!
Chris had to work, so would stay behind in Yotsukaido. Kaz, her friend, Ellesen, and myself went into brave the city of Tokyo and what wonders there were yet to find.
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