1700 Year Old Caves

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Jun 29, 2011

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Where I stayed
Charlie Johng's International Youth Hostel

Flag of China  , Gansu Sheng,
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yesterday, the 21st, we arrived in Dunhuang on the train at about 7am.  As we rode in, we realized that all the books and photos hadn't lied - Dunhuang really is in the desert, the Gobi to be exact, and it really does have honest-to-god, huge sand dunes.  It's an amazing place.

The train station, which is the same color as the desert sand, looks like some kind of oversized Egyptian palace.  We took a taxi from the front of the station to our first choice hostel, but when we got there, the people told us that the place was under construction and that we'd have to go to the hostel's second branch in the city. 

As there were no taxis around, someone from the hostel in town came in a van to pick us up.  Our hostel is called Charlie Johng's International Youth Hostel.  (The original place was called Charlie Johng's Dune Guesthouse).

In the morning yesterday, we did the big thing that we'd been looking forward to our whole trip.  We went to the Mogao Caves.  The oldest cave was constructed in the middle of the fourth century AD, but most of the caves date from the sixth and seventh centuries.  They're filled with Indian and Chinese Buddhist paintings and sculptures.  Amazingly, the colors are still vivid after more than 1000 years.

Unfortunately, there was no English-speaking guide available (we think he was sleeping and couldn't be bothered) so we didn't get to hear any descriptions of the artwork or the caves, and the Chinese tourists were a bit roudy as usual, but otherwise we had a good experience.

When we got back from the caves, we spent an hour or so buying train tickets from Dunhuang to Urumqi (we leave tomorrow morning) and plane tickets from Urumqi to Nanjing (we return to Zhenjiang on the 25th), but after that we had a little time to have a cup of coffee and a chat.

In the evening, we did my favorite activity of the day and one of my favorite tourist activities since being in China - we climed the sand dunes at Mingsha Shan.  We spent about twenty minutes climbing the tallest dune we could see.  Once at the top, we sat for a while and enjoyed the view, then we climbed a second dune.  We were at the dunes from about six o'clock to eight o'clock.  We wanted to stay to watch the sun set, but the sun goes down late in Western China. 

After the dunes, we came back to our hostel and ate dinner at the night market right outside our door.  We finished eating at about 10:30 and it had just gotten dark.

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Fiona Jeffcoat on

Hi Lauren & Sam - I'm so glad to hear your accounts of your travels out west! It's a whole new world out there & a great way to finish your time in China. I can't begin to tell you how much we miss China, as weird as that souns!

larlar1286 on

Hi Fiona,
Thanks for your comment. I know you all enjoyed your trip to Western China and Sam and I have talked about your stories and photos several times in the past few weeks.
We're very glad we came to the west too, and though we haven't left China quite yet (5 days!), I think we'll both miss it.

johnell on

Hi, Fiona Jeffcoat, I am Johnell(smith), one of your students and frieds when you tought
in Dali, Yunnan , I wrote to each other, however, later we lost touch when you went back . I am now a writer and live in Beijing, hope to meet you again.my Email is :johnell@163.com.

Lauren Romero on

Hi Johnell! I don't think Fiona will see your comment but I'll try my best to get your email address to her.

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