Silkroad D5: Dunhuang Nearby Attractions
Dunhuang Travel Blog› entry 7 of 21 › view all entries
December 30th, 2008 – by: wsquare
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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
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 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.
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December 30th, 2008 – by: wsquare
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!