Rock formations, the Jade Gate and Great Wall
Yadan National Park Travel Blog› entry 326 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Hannes (Sweden)
I'm really not a fan of early starts, i hoped that i had left them behind in England with my job. It was therefore with annoyance and upset that I greeted the 06.30 alarm on Friday morning, which had been set to wake us up for our trip to Yadan National Park and the surrounding scenic spots of Dunhuang.
Hannes met us at our hotel just before 07.00 and we walked next door to the CITS office, who had done us a great deal on a minibus, charging just 80RMB ($11.50) per person, for the 360km, 8 hour trip.
Our little white van stopped off for petrol and i was astonished that it only cost 2.30RMB ($0.30) per litre. I'm not sure exactly what they use in China, as diesel costs 5RMB ($0.70) per litre, but they have this other cheap alternative, which i had also used in South Korea when i had hired a car on Jeju-do. Ok, i found out tonight that its actually natural gas that they use, which is really impressive!
First stop of the day was 102km North West of Dunhuang, at the Jade Gate Pass (40RMB/$6), which was an important military station during the Han dynasty. It helped provide vital protection to merchants in the trade of Khotanese Jade, as the name would suggest! Today there remains some crumbling ruins and little else.
An hour down the road and we arrived at the main destination for the day, Yadan National Park. We had been told that the Park entry fee was 50RMB ($7), but when we arrived they then told us that we must hire a bus to take us to the rock formations, which cost an additional 20RMB ($3). I found this a little cheeky, especially as the ticket said 10RMB on it! Still, this was something we had encountered before in China and there's no point in arguing, you just have to pay it.
Yadan is part of the vast Gobi desert and was created around 12,000 years ago.
The weather by now was typical of a desert day, that is to say it was bloody hot. Walking around for even short distances soon became sweaty work, but Hannes somehow managed to have enough energy to perform some freestyle rock jumping, which livened up what i found an otherwise average attraction.
Our minivan headed off in the direction that we had come from and our next scenic spot was at a section of the Great Wall of China.
Having not visited Mogao Caves, i was quite looking forward to the Western Thousand Buddha Caves, which were next on the agenda. When we arrived, we descended a large flight of steps that took us into a valley below and past a locked gate, which was the access point to the caves. After walking to the valley edge, we tried to look for a ticket booth or somewhere to gain admittance, but found neither. Sadly we had to leave having seen nothing, which was rather disappointing.
Our last scheduled stop of the day was at a 1980's film studio, which had been preserved for the sake of tourism. No-one was in the least bit interested in this, as we had heard only negative things about it, so the unanimous decision was made to head back to Dunhuang.
Arriving in the town we pulled into a parking lot and the first thing that caught my eye was a silk shop. Our guide and driver, who had made no real effort to communicate with us all day, suddenly took a real interest in us getting to experience this 'attraction'. The three of us refused to get out of the van however, which i think rather annoyed the driver in particular, as they would be losing out on commission, tough luck. Instead we sat in the van and watched two funny dogs, one very camp looking and the other a real tough case.
At last we were dropped off back at our hotel, so went for a very good lunch at John's Information Cafe, which was probably the highlight of my day. Colin showed up, fresh off what he described as a wonderful overnight camel trek and we all felt a little jealous that we hadn't gone with him. An hour on the internet and it was time to meet up with Portia to catch a taxi to Liuyuan, from where we would take the sleeper train on to Turpan.