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The Road

Days of Heaven at Secret Kazakh Sibinskie Lakes

We had to explain ourselves maybe to 10 drivers. Once you’re in Eastern Kazakhstan and you wish to have a swim in the lake, it better be Alakol Lake. Otherwise locals will give you a hard time describing its beauty and telling you how much you’re going to miss. It might be so, but if we would not reach other, planned by us, destination – Sibinskie Lakes, we would miss a real paradise! 

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South Korea The Road

SPA Heaven out of the Blue – Jimjilbang

Our favorite accommodation on the road is our tent – bought once and sleep anywhere for free forever after. Not everywhere though it was used, oftentimes because of the low temperature or just the crave for better comfort and shower. In South Korea guesthouses are not so cheap and although couchsurfing worked well, there’s not that many hosts outside of the capital city. Luckily this beautiful country has another very special kind of sleep to offer. Jimjilbang is a type of a public bathhouse, which is a rather spacious building with sex segregated hot tubs of various kinds, sauna, salt room and showers. In other unisex rooms there are Korean traditional kiln saunas, snack room (sikhye and smoked egg, mmm…), PC room, TVs and, yes, area for sleeping.

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The Road

Erdene Zuu – Mongolia’s oldest buddhist monastery that survived centuries of persecution

The scorching sun woke us up early in the morning near Kharkhorin town along the river of Orkhon. We ran quickly to cool our bodies in the water and enjoyed its coolness. Our camping place was on a wide steppe and only a few trees and the rugged sandstone wall, that silenced sounds of the adjacent highway, gave us a shadow. After a closer look it seemed that the place was kind of an animal burial ground… here and there bodies of birds, a ram’s skull in a preserved state and horse’s  leg chopped off with all its flesh! We didn’t have time to process everything we saw because soon, after walking to the main road, a car filled with people stopped next to us. There was no common language, but after saying the name of the destination and exchanging smiles, as always,we were offered a ride.

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The Road

Hiking up on the Hallasan Mountain

The majestic figure of Hallasan Mountain, with its peak often covered with clouds, shapes a distinctive profile against the sky. This massive natural monument is the highest mountain in South Korea (tops out at 1950 m) forming the bulk of its largest island Jeju. As a volcano it’s, classified as an active one, but since it has not erupted for more than 5,000 years, its status is argued by scientists to be ‘dormant’. There is a national park surrounding the summit, and the area is deemed a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. No matter where you go on the island, you will see the magnificent crater painting the horizon with its scenic nature, and it will entice you to explore its wonders. 

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The Road

Korean Ski Resort Frozen in Time

The time has stopped in the abandoned Alps Ski Resort near Sockho in Gangwon province close to the North Korean border (DMZ zone). Opening its doors in the 1980s, it was the first destinations of its kind in South Korea welcoming tens of thousands of skiers every year. Except the ski slopes the resort had every amenity you can imagine including golf, bowling, swimming pools, bars, a night club and restaurants. Now, once a booming destination has been abandoned since 2006 after its owner went bankrupt in the face of growing competition. 

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The Road

Work and meditation in rural side of Korea

Our driver with gestures and mimics asked us, are we sure that this is the place. Back in Seoul, he picked us up from the petrol station, tried to figure out translator on his phone, failed to do it, and so we drove for over 2 hours listening to Korean radio stations. The night full of insect and bird sounds welcomed us to our destination. Very anxious about our first work exchange experience, we knocked on the gate and soon were invited inside. The next two weeks in this place were quite a quiet, purifying and magical time in which we learned much more than we’ve expected.

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The Road

Desert in the Middle of Autumn Taiga Forest – Chara Sands

It was getting brighter and we started to wake up in bunk beds of the train. Its jarring and scrooping sounds made a good, authentic lullaby. In the third class carriage we could observe the rest of the passengers sleeping and snoring around us, but the view outside was something much more worth our attention. Mystic Kodar Mountains emerged from the dark curtains of rain far in the horizon. We smiled as we were getting closer to our destination, though this time they were not mountains, it was something rather unique at their foot – the desert.

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Russia - Siberia The Road

Miracle of Yakutia – Lena Pillars

Siberia’s Lena Pillars is a specific natural rock formation in the Republic of Sakha stretching for over 40 km along the Lena River. This unique nature park was one of the first points that we marked on our travel map and it kept us moving to get there on time. It was already early autumn – the end of the tourist season, it might be more difficult to find a boat we needed to see the Pillars. Ardently hitchhiking to the city of Yakutsk, we had huge luck to meet a driver, who actually knew a fisherman (Sergey) going to the Pillars with his relatives…The man had a space in the boat and with an unusually small fee he welcomed us to the tour! Early next morning, full of excitement, we travelled from our couchsurfing hosts to the Bulgunnyakhtakh village, from where the journey began.

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Cities

Walking into the Night of Ulaanbaatar

It was already late in the evening when we arrived in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. After several attempts to contact our couchsurfing host with messages and phone calls, we knocked on his door, knowing, that if no one will answer, we will end up having to spend our night in the streets. After some time, standing there on a dark hallway with no response from the apartment, we gave up and went out…

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