Silkroad D5: Dunhuang Nearby Attractions

Dunhuang Travel Blog

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Hard Bed Train Ride
Our japanese friends decided not to join us, fearing that such tour trips would ruin them of chasing their time from point-to-point. I really thought with just 5 of us, we can take all the time we could to explore with no tourguide chasing us. But nevertheless, we went with their wishes, so the entire day was spent just the Dongbei couple & me. the 3 of us in the vehicle! So you guessed it, we couldnt pressed for lower charge, but we paid 10rmb more, which is still reasonable.

So it was indeed true, we really took the hell of our time talking idle walks, 'breathing' in the sceneries & snapping shots.

Highlights of the Day

1. Breakfast in Dunhuang City - 羊肉粉汤 (Mutton noodle soup i guess)

It was one of the fabulous meals I'm going to remember.
The shot which led me to know Ura and Yuki - our special acquaintance
It was so simple & plain - a bowl of pipping hot mutton soup with soft-white udon-like noodles ,accompanied with a toasted bread. Soup was in its original brewed taste, with almost neligible oil. Unbelievable aftertaste hehe. I'm no good gastronomic author,so you just have to imagine..haha

Typical breakfast for Dunhuang locals.  Breakfast meals in China is always that cheap,filled with wide variety. I will missed it all when I'm back home. 7rmb was all it cost for a sumptuous breakfast hehe.


2. Mogao Caves 莫高窟

Located 25km southeast of Dunhuang city, Mogao caves is world-reputed for its Dunhuang grotto art- where the carving of the caves started way back in AD 366 and persisted through a dozen dynasties of preservations and restorations by numerous rulers at reign!

It is by far the most well-preserved Buddhist relic in the world, with the largest scale, longest history (1000+ years) and richest religious content.
City Street of Dunhuang. Frozen roads amidst -20deg then
Reputably, an UNESCO site. 

However, I still like the old, unpreserved way shown in photos, which were no more when I was there. It has a modernized feel of pigeonhole-alikes for the grottoes.  Can't take much photographs when we were shown around the caves since the authority wants to ensure the mural religious paintings in there are preserved well from strong flashes. Well i have to respect that. We have to tag to an attached guide whom will show you around to 10 caves. So if you have all the time you want, you can just join another guide as each guide will bring you to different caves, but there are some reputable which will be common among all.


Ticket Price was 80rmb, instead of normal 160rmb.

3. Lunch Back at Dunhuang City Market - Shazhou Shi 沙洲市

Inside this buzzing market, there's a corner of food stalls devoted to mainly Dunhuang delights.
I like this shot of Dunhuang train Station.
I really like this place though i didnt have the chance to really explore much due to my time constraint.  I was introduced to a kind of special-shaped noodles call Cuo-yu-zhi mian, which bears very close resemblance to Singapore style Mi-tai-mak ! I like & missed greatly! I believe this is a good spot for shopping too!

I'm was still stunned by the locals gargantuan appetite. I had a huge bowl of noodles, and to them, it's their small serving! And when I said huge serving, it's literally a huge TRAY of noodles for 1-person serving. Unbelievable.

Another cheap lunch at 6rmb!

4. Mingsha Shan 鸣沙山 (aka Whistling Sand Dunes)

The best highlight of the day, very enthralling & mesmerizing winter view-scape that will leave you in awe. It couldnt be any better than winter i thought.
The newly built Dunhuang Train Station.
I cannot imagine walking in dread summer on the scorching hot sand. What i saw in front of me were amazing sand dunes covered with pristine white snow, dotted with nomadic camel rides.  Wooow!

I strongly recommended the camel rides as it's the most worthwhile camel ride i've ever seen. The camel ride will accompany you throughout your tour there. Even if you have wandered off to higher sand dunes for breathtaking sceneries, they will wait for you patiently till your return, and bring you to the next spot.  We were in there for at least 3hrs or more, spending half the day there.

If you have stubbornly walked in by foot, most probably you could only go to one of the 2 camel stops, which is the Tooth Crecent Moon lake. There is in fact another point which you can climb to a very high peak to catch amazing sand dunes, which you will never see should you choose to walk! So dont hesitate.
Dunhuang Attractions For Reference!


Had the adventurous female partner not insisted on climbing the 2 sand dunes, i guess I would have missed all the captivating views. It was really tiresome especially "trotting" in the soft sand. Ascending was challenging - with each forward step,you are making half a step back , and descending was just slightly better, but kind of horrifying as you can feel your feet sliding down with each step,dragged down into the soft sand. Guess what, you can't find the usual track paths, and we really crafted our own descending tracks! It was a feat we felt we were superior for once haha.

5. Cresent Moon Lake 月牙泉

Cresent Moon Lake is what I call the oasis meets the desert, which is just located at the foot of Mingsha Shan. It was formed through accumulation of spring water trickles in the sand dune depression, to form an intriguing crescent-shaped pond!

Ticket Price for Whistling Sands & Cresent Moon Lake was 60rmb, off the usual 120rmb
Worthwhile Camel Ride plus shoes protector bag for 60+10 rmb


6.
My favourite plain and tasty mutton noodles soup & bun
Famous & Special Donkey Meat with Yellow Noodles at Daji (达记馿肉黄面)Dinner

Alright. it didnt really fascinated me but it was still a commendable try i guess since it was so well-worded by locals as well as in Ura's travel guide.  I do admit it was special, and finally i get to have yellow noodles, something that I can only find when back in Singapore. I would have passed off donkey meat for some beef if i had not known earlier. The meat rough textures are the same for both.

I had a hearty dinner with Mr Li, the Dongbei couple, who treated me to the dinner. Apparently his female partner has collapsed in bed straight after our day hike. Haha, so much for spreading the idealism of being vegetarian in the day, she has to see that the carnivorous creatures are the one who survived longer =) The best part of this short acquaintance is, he has been staying in a hotel just few blocks away from my Shanghai residential each time he is on business trip to Shanghai! Oh my gosh.
I was telling him, alas, if I had known you earlier i can bring him around my neighbourhood delights. Too bad, I'll be returning home for good very soon after the trip!

I strolled the night streets hoping to catch a massage place to allay my ankle sprain since yesterday. But alas after walking for streets, I gave up. Nevermind, I know it will just go off eventually. The night market also ended early. I returned to Shazhou market, but alas it was already closed by 9pm!

7. Hearty Chats with my newly-found friends

Back in hotel,  i was greeted by Ura and Yuki, and were sharing our day delights. I showed them my photos and told them how much they have missed. It was really a trip which we really took our time. So I told them, they must join in tomorrow Yardan trip as usual bus transport wouldnt bring them there, and since we already has a group, so must seize this rare opportunity! I understand itz gonna be at least 180km ride to Yardan!

It was one of my very warming nights as we were chatting about what we were doing and how we got ourselves in Dunhuang.
Okay this is my Cuo-yu-zhi mian. It's considered SMALL serving man..
I guess when people are out travelling, we just do not have any prohibitions. It's just that carefree.  Really one of my memorable Silkroad nights




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Mesmerizing greeting view of Mingsha shan
I enjoyed my overnight train ride to Dunhuang as I met very chatty and friendly trainmates who were Dunhuang locals.  A pity i did not take a camera shot with them. Through them, I learnt a whole much deal on what to do in Dunhuang and how to get about in the city. A very strange phenomenon -  they have relatives who are working in Dunhuang tourism, either a hotel boss or a tour agency owner. Wow. Dunhuang must has lived its economy through tourism!

They were recommending me some of the must-visit places etc and what to do, and where to stay! And the best advice they have for me is to ping-che,which means to look for similar-minded tourists and booked a car for my 2 days in Dunhuang.
Amazing special dunes
I took the advice gracely and, there was no regrets after since!

In a twist of fate, I also got acquaintance with a Japanese couple just next train bed away, who were out backpacking, Urata-san and Yukiko. It was kind of interesting coincidence that we met as I was asking Ura to take a shot for me on my train bed. And the next question came was, 'Can you speak English?'. What followed were very hearty travel chats. And boy was I still fascinated by the Japanese tourist guide he was holding. Goodness, what a good book he has with him! So I extended them to join in with me to catch a transport to city, and as well as look for hotel stay. It's good for me to lend them a helping hand too esp when comes to language communication with the locals. Furthermore, it's really not an easy feat for them.
Cresent Moon Lake from atop. A pity the lake has been frozen. It's -20deg now
I'm full of respect for them, that they had already been in backpacking in China for many times!

I was glad to find the driver,Huang Shifu at the train station - a serendipity i should termed.  Had he not agreed to charge us for 5rmb/person to the city, together with my newlyfound Jap friends, we would have just hop on to Dunhuang local cabs. I wouldnt imagine how my itinenary would be without him ! He even drove us along the road where the hotels clustered and advise us to go in and check one by one and see whichever suits us the best.  It's the offpeak season, and hotels are at super low bargains.  We have the rights to choose now, not them, I was told, hehe. Thanks to Ura's guide book beforehand, we had an unanimous to check on Mogao Bin Guan, afterwhich we just stopped there.
The famous donkey yellow noodle for dinner
=) Not to mention, eventually our cab trip was eventually waived off as we agreed to hop on his ride adventour =)

In the car which also ferry other passengers, were another couple from Dongbei. So just nice the 5 of us.  Along the journey, we also managed to stike a deal with the driver to bring us for the 2 days! And i was thrilled when the couple spoke of their main intention to Yardan national park.  Frankly speaking, Yardan was off my list though i really hope to as it was way too far, like Mount Huashuan in Xian.  Some of my deepest regrets that let me feel 'I was so near yet so far'.  I really felt blessed that good luck & faith was with me. Must attribute to the Sakyamuni relics which i've faithfully prayed to in Lintong hehe.
The famous statue that symbolises Dunhuang city. In fact, it was taken from a famous mural in Mogao Caves. It is a figure showing a lady playing qin/pipa placed on the back of her neck.


So considering the five of us in the car, we strike a deal to charge 40rmb/person for today, which brings us the route along Mogao Caves, Whistling Sand Dunes & Tooth Crescent Moon Lake etc. Day 2,the very exhaustive ride to Yardan and ensuring us back in time to Dunhuang train station for 150rmb/person.

I did a rough mental calculation, 200rmb for the 2 days of transport & guide, itz all worth-the-while! Just grab!

Offpeak period did help alot as they gave in as long as business is still barely doable for them, better than idling around. Win-win situation for both traveller and driver heh.

[Afternote]
Travelling in Dunhuang in Winter has its attractive features,abeilt the cold brutal winter (and its still very much bearable afterall)
1. Tickets are going at 50% discount to boost winter tourism
2. Hotel rooms are going at super-bargain price. With the same amount of money, you can stay in a 5-star hotel during offpeak but maybe a 3-star hotel in peak season
3. Combining passengers for long distance & personalized rides are much easier, and at the call of the passengers
4. Strolling in brown sparkling sand desert covered with mesmerizing pristine snow.

All-in-all, super savings with a personalized touch and avoiding the horrendous China-holiday-peak crowds!




Hard Bed Train Ride
Hard Bed Train Ride
The shot which led me to know Ura …
The shot which led me to know Ura…
City Street of Dunhuang. Frozen ro…
City Street of Dunhuang. Frozen r…
I like this shot of Dunhuang train…
I like this shot of Dunhuang trai…
The newly built Dunhuang Train Sta…
The newly built Dunhuang Train St…
Dunhuang Attractions For Reference!
Dunhuang Attractions For Reference!
My favourite plain and tasty mutto…
My favourite plain and tasty mutt…
Okay this is my Cuo-yu-zhi mian. I…
Okay this is my Cuo-yu-zhi mian. …
Mesmerizing greeting view of Mings…
Mesmerizing greeting view of Ming…
Amazing special dunes
Amazing special dunes
Cresent Moon Lake from atop. A pit…
Cresent Moon Lake from atop. A pi…
The famous donkey yellow noodle fo…
The famous donkey yellow noodle f…
The famous statue that symbolises …
The famous statue that symbolises…
No more having to travelled to Liu…
No more having to travelled to Li…
The toasted buns
The toasted buns
The stall which our driver introdu…
The stall which our driver introd…
Reaching the entrance of Mogao Cav…
Reaching the entrance of Mogao Ca…
Ok, the corridor paths to the caves
Ok, the corridor paths to the caves
Caves have been refurbished, consi…
Caves have been refurbished, cons…
Dunhuang and its participation to …
Dunhuang and its participation to…
Do you agree they look like modern…
Do you agree they look like moder…
One of the main structures. Inside…
One of the main structures. Insid…
I just like paranomic shots and Ca…
I just like paranomic shots and C…
Opposite is the Museum
Opposite is the Museum
Its peaceful with nearly non-visi…
It's peaceful with nearly non-vis…
The walls of the museum =_)
The walls of the museum =_)
The drawings of the grotto caves
The drawings of the grotto caves
Some of the cave exhibits. Cant re…
Some of the cave exhibits. Cant r…
I like this Shazhou market with th…
I like this Shazhou market with t…
The local menu on the wall!
The local menu on the wall!
Dunhuang Museum, which was shut do…
Dunhuang Museum, which was shut d…
Camels awaiting in the desert
Camels awaiting in the desert
I really like this panoramic view,…
I really like this panoramic view…
Our camel ride into Mingsha Shan
Our camel ride into Mingsha Shan
The winter sceneries of the desert!
The winter sceneries of the desert!
Our camel shot
Our camel shot
Our path up the dune
Our path up the dune
Folks playing chess in the desert …
Folks playing chess in the desert…
Yes, a very steep climb. Do you se…
Yes, a very steep climb. Do you s…
Alas, Cresent Moon view, really wo…
Alas, Cresent Moon view, really w…
Our steep climb was not easy in fa…
Our steep climb was not easy in f…
Our descending path which we craft…
Our descending path which we craf…
Our crafted path from far
Our crafted path from far
Catching the sunset moment
Catching the sunset moment
Finally leaving the desert
Finally leaving the desert
We had went that far..
We had went that far..
The entrance sign
The entrance sign
I think it is a Lanzhou locally br…
I think it is a Lanzhou locally b…
Sha Zhou Market which i went in th…
Sha Zhou Market which i went in t…
The local food delights in there
The local food delights in there
Dunhuang Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Donkey Meat & Yellow Noodle a fancy for you?
Daji Lu Ruo Huang Mian (Donkey Meat & Yellow Noodles) is very famous in Dunhuang, one local delight which is strongly recommended by its locals. Th… read entire review
Dunhuang Hotels & Accommodations review
Good stay at promotional price during offpeak season
Hope ratings has not been overevaluated considering the fact that I've beeb staying in hostel and budget hotels for most of my travels. Yes so i need … read entire review
Dunhuang
photo by: Deats