The main thing which interested me to visit Jiayuguan was an image I saw on google of an ancient guard tower on the edge of a fort surrounded by an arid, empty desert landscape, to even fly to this part of china was a spur of the moment decision and I didn't really know what I might find. The next morning after recovering from a flight and train ride I asked my hotel about visiting some of these ancient attractions and they were able to pair me with a driver for 180 rmb to take me to the three most popular ones on the west of town; The Overhanging Great Wall (Xuán Bì Cháng Xhéng), The Great Walls First Abutment(Cháng Chéng Dìyī Dūn), and The First Pass of the Great Wall (Jiāyù Guān).

After a car ride followed by a short golf cart ride, I was at the museum for the First Abutment. Inside there isn't too much to see except a couple old photos of the wall, and a group of belligerent tourists taking pictures of one another laying on the glass floor of a balcony looking over the Taolai River. This balcony would have a nice view, but with the commotion created by this glass floor, it is impossible to get a photo or even think for that matter; I did find an alternative viewing platform however inside the hallway leading to the mens bathroom. After I popped through the green plastic strips hanging from the door top, there was a wide and empty balcony from which the view was quite the same.

View from the bathroom

Kamenskoe Plato @ Almaty

Having spent enough time in downtown to feel like I'd be wasting time by exploring further there, today I ventured back into the hills. Without too much information to go on, I hopped onto bus 5 and held on till the last stop. The route went as though it was going toward Medeu until hanging a right onto a curvy one lane road; from this point it was a couple of minutes before rising out of the hotels and restaurants up into a snowy suburban community of poor Kazak hill dwellers.

Breweries in Almaty

Equipped with a list of addresses compiled from google, I set to the streets of Almaty today to explore and find any local beer I could get my hands on. The walk was long and strenuous; the first couple addresses turned out to be out of date, one replaced with a sex shop, another boarded up and under construction. On the south side of town I managed to find one place called John's, unfortunately after a test glass I decided that it was undrinkable.

Random street on my walk

Shymbulak Ski Resort @ Almaty

Just south of Almaty lies the Shymbulak Ski Resort, one of the most popular attraction in the near vicinity. To get here you can catch bus 12 right across from the Kazakhstan hotel in downtown Almaty, this will drop you off near the famous Medeu Ice Skating Rink (the highest in the world) where you can find a gondola which takes you right up to the ski resort.

Outside Medeu Ice Rink
Gondola from Medeu

Udawatta Kele Sanctuary @ Kandy

Located on a hill right on the north edge of Kandy is the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary, basically the natural version of the Peridanyi Botanical Gardens. The difference here is that the trails are carved out of a natural jungle and you can actually get a bit lost in-between them. Although the nature here is quite beautiful, I highly recommend bringing a couple beers along with you for the hike to help stave off boredom.

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens @ Kandy

With not so much information to work with I picked out the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens as my first excursion around Kandy. It's located 8km to the west of Kandy and takes about 15 minutes to get to in a rickshaw, admission is 1500 rupees (10 usd) for foreigners and 50 rupees for locals. As I waited in line to buy my ticket, watching the locals fork over less then a 20th of what I was paying was slightly painful.

Inside the park walking around was slightly boring at first, just a bunch of  plants and trees in a garden, but eventually a couple things got my interest. You can find an occasional pack of monkeys, bats, a cow or two, and some other weird animals scattered about the garden; although I'm not a vegetation enthusiast, there was still a couple trees which actually stood out for me. On the very north side of the park there is a bridge you can walk out on which has an excellent view of the river which circumvents the park, from here you can see the view of the surrounding area or just watch some locals bath in the river.