Archive for the ‘Gansu Travel’ Category
On Auguast 01, 2011, after simple Chinese lunch at the end of visiting Jiayuguan Pass, we set off for Dunhuang on a 385km road trip along the National Highway G30 and changed at Guazhou County for National Highway G313 leading to our destination - Dunhaung.
We set off for Dunhuang on a 385km road trip.
This 385km driving trip was the most challenging part of our Hexi Corridor trip. But we were all excited and very much expected the long bus travel cutting through the Gobi desert bound by Qilin Mountain in the south and the North Mountain and the extention of Tianshan Mountain in the north.
At the city Yumen, we stopped for about 20 monutes for using toilets and relaxing. It was a national highway, so each distance between 60 and 100km there would be a service center with the facilities like a restaurant, a store and a toilet.
Service Area at Yumen on the G30
On our left side was Qilianshan Mountain.
In the later afternoon, after four and half hours, we reached the city of Dunhuang. The monotonous desert landscape suddely gave away to the green oasis with cultivated fields opposite the rolling sand dunes. But it was not the oasis and the sand dunes that attracts a huge number of tourists coming to Dunhuang each year, it is the the splendid cave temples of Dunhuang, a trove of Buddhist art in the high desert.
Dunhuang once commanded a very important strategic position at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road along the narrow Gansu Corridor which was extended to the north Chinese plains and the ancient capitals of Chang’ans and Luoyang.
The Mogaoku (Mogao Caves ) was located under the Minshanshan (Singing Sand Dunes ), 25km southeas of the city of Dunhuang. The attraction site of the Crescent Moon Lake and the Singing Sand Dunes was located 7km south of Dunhuang City. The Dunhuang Railway Station was located 12km in the northeast of Dunhuang and Dunhuang Airport 13km in the east of Dunhuang.
Dunhuang Tourist Map
Now we entered the city center of Dunhuang. The Feitian Statue standing in the center of the city.
New hotels in Dunhuang were popping up to meet the increasing number of tourists coming from home and broad. All the hotels were located in Dunhuang city, not at the Mogao Caves area. This time we were arranged to stay at Grand Sun Hotel Dunhuang ( add: 5 Beilu, Shazhou Tel; 0937 -8829999 ), one of the best hotels in Dunhuang. Other nice hotels include Dunhuang Hotel ( add:14, Guandong Lu Tel: 0937 – 88220088 ), Dunhuang Shazhou Sunny Hotel ( add: 31, Guanzhong Lu Tel: 0937 – 8850001 ), Dunhuang Shanzhuang ( add: Guoyue Lu Tel: 0937 – 8882088 )…
Grand Sun Hotel Dunhuang
Rooms at Grand Sun Hotel Dunhuang
After check-in, for the rest of the time, we were free without any prearranged activities. Together with a bus mate from Guilin, we went to the famouas Dunhuang Market for a short trip. In the market, you would see good dried fruits, and nuts ( including dates, raisins, walnuts, apricots…). You would alo discover many souvenirs. If you felt hungry, the market would not let you down.
A panoramic view of the Dunhuang Market, the commercial street.
Jade, bracelet, beards, wrist beads…
Enjoying the local flavors
The next morning we got up very early to catch the beautiful view of the Singing Sand Dunes coupled by the Crescent Lake. We were a little bit disappointed by the yellow dust ( yellow sand, yellow wind or dust storms)… It is a seasonal meteorological phenomenon which affects much of Northern and Northwest of China like Lanzhou, Baotou and Yinchuan as well as Beijing in the season of March.
Singing Sand Dunes
Riding a camel
The Crescent Lake in the dust storm
The visit to the Mogaoku, or Mogao Caves was the highklight of our Hexi Corridor trip. The site of the Mogao Caves is loacted 25km southeast of the city of Dunhuang. The Mogao Cave temples rise three levels along a 1.6 kilometer escarpment near the Daquan River. Every visitor to Dunhuang will be overpowered by their rich complexity and astonishing details. There are totally 492 caves, hand hewn from the cliff face over a millennium, are numbered for reference and protection.
If you travel on a large group, your group have to make a reservation in advance. Individuals and small groups do not need a reservation for entering Mogao Caves. But all visitors must be escorted by a guide offered by the Dunhuang Academy. High season tickets are around US $25, the two hour guide service available in major languages.
Photography is not allowed inside the caves. The standard admission only allows you visit a dozen cave temples, including the Cave No.96, the iconic nine story pagoda with the colossal 35.5m tall Buddha, the third largest in the world.
It is worth visiting at least two cacess. Aroud 30 caves are open to the public at any one time of the 429. Murals and sculptures bring us much enlightment on the ten centuries of culture at the crossroads of East and West.
The Cave 96, the Iconic Structure
The caves are well protected
Three levels caves
After dinner, we went to Lanzhou Railaway Station for a 11-hour train trip from Lanzhou to Jiayuguan. Lanazhou Railway Station is the only passenger railway station in Lanzhou. It is located below the Gaolan Mountain in the south of Chengguan District of Lanzhou, Gansu Province. We were arranged to take the overnight Train K9661 starting at 08:38pm and arriving at Jiayuguan at 7:46 the next morning covering the total raily length of 770km. Now it was the tourism peak season here in Gansu Province, there were over a dozen of through or passing by trains linking the two important cities on the ancient Silk Road.
The orange coloured train looked much safer and more reliable than the white bullet Beijing Shanghai high speed trains, which had been hit fatally by the train collision last month in Zhejiang Province, though the orange fast train was much slower.
The orange coloured train looked much safer and more reliable.
I was waked up by the early morning sunlight creeping into our cabin. What caught my eyes were the passing by Qilian Mountain with snow capped peaks. Yes, the famous mountain would accompany us throughout the trip paralleling the the whole Hexi Corridor.
Qilian Mountain with snow capped peaks
We arrived at Jiayuguan on time. Jiayuguan Railway Station was located 5km south of the city center.
Jiayuguan Railway Station
After disembarking at Jiayuguan Railway Station, going through the city center, we went directly to Jiayuguan Hotel (嘉峪关宾馆) for a familiarization trip. It is a 4 star hotel with 177 rooms modernly equipped and elegantly furnished. Add: No.01 Xinhua Road, Jiayuguan Tel: 0937 – 6201588 Fax: 0937 – 6227174.
we were transferred to Jiayuguan Hotel (嘉峪关宾馆) for a fam trip.
A huge painted Jiayuguan Tourism Map hanging on the wall in the lobby of the hotel aroused my interest. The map clearly showed the layout of Jiayuguan City with the mapping of its rich tourist attractions.
Jiayuguan Downtown – Jiayuguan Airport ( 13km )
Jiayuguan Railway Station ( 5km )
Long Distance Bus Station ( 1.5km )
Jiayuguan Pass ( 4km )
Overhanging Great Wall (Suspension Great Wall ) 12km
The First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall ( 15km )
Wei Jin Underground Brisk Murals ( 18km )
July First Glacier ( 120km )
The Tourist Map of Jiayuguan City
The next activity was the highlight of our fam trip in Jiayuguan, visiting the Jiayuguan Pass. Jiayu Pass ( Jiayuguan Fort ) was the first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China. Built 1372, Jiayuguan Fortwas was christened as the first and greatest Pass under the Heaven. The pass consisted of three defense lines – an inner city, an outer city and a moat.
The fort was located at the narroweat point of the western section in Hexi Corridor ( 15km wide ) bound by Qilian Mountains and Hei Shan ( Black Mountains ). The fort had a perimeter of 733 meters with an area of more than 33,500 square meters. The total length of the city wall was 733 meters and 11 meters high.
Jiayuguan pass had two gates – East side ( Gate of Enlightment ) and West side ( Gate of Conciliation ). On each gate there was a building with an inscription of “Jiayuguan” in Chinese written. Each gate had 17 m-high towers with double gates that had been used to trapping invading armies. The south and north sides of the pass were linked to the Great Wall. There was a turret on each corner of the fort.
The West Gate of Conciliation
The unrepaired turret of the fort.
The city wall of the pass.
The horse course way up to the pass
Outside the wall of the pass.
After finishing the tour of Jianyuguan, we moved on to the south of the pass and got to the first beacon tower of Great Wall of China. The first beacon tower was built 1539 by an local military officer stationed in Hexi Corridor.
Now we were driving along the highway from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang at the driving distance of 385km.
Linxia is the seat of Linxia Hui Autonomous Precture of Gansu Province, one of the two autonomous prefectures in China, the other being Changji Autonomous Hui Prefecture. “Linxia” literally means “fronted by Da Xia River”. So the name of the city is taken after the river passing by – the Daxia River, one of the important tributaries of Yellow River.
Linxia is located 140km southeast of Lanzhou, 117km northeast of Xiahe, and 198km north of Hezuo, on the transit zone between the loess plateau and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. There are in total twenty-two ethnic groups living in Linxia, including Hui, Han, Dongxiang, Bonan, Salar, Tibetan and Tu. The Bonan and Dongxiang are unique to the prefecture and have thire own autonomous counties. Linxia has a population of 1.9 million with ethic groups taking 57%.
Linxia was an important Silk Road passage in the ancient China. The Hui people as well as Dongxiang, Bonan, Salar are said to be the descendants of the 13th immigrants from Central Asia coming through the Silk Road for the trade and culture exchange. Dongxiang, Bonan, Salar speak an Altaic language.
For most travelers, Linxia serves as kinda of transit area to take a break, dining or stay overnight. Aside from viewing the yellow Daxia River, in the downtown of Lingxia, you can visit Linxia Nanguan Mosque, one of the famous Islamic shrines in China’s northwest region first built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).
47km in the northeast of Lixia City is the famous site of Binglingsi Grottoes in Yongqin County under the administration of Linxia. “Bingling” means “thousand Buddhas” or “ten-thousand Buddhas” in the Tibetan language. Also known as Bingling Temple, the grottoes are carved on Jishi Hill 75 km from Lanzhou. Bingling Temple Grottoes are famous for stone sculptures of Buddhist pagodas in relief and murals of Esoteric Buddhism.
On Auguast 02, 2011, after visiting Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, we started our 258km driving trip back to Lanzhou along the National Highway 213. At the lunch time, we stopped in the city of Linxia for 2 hours for lunch and a brief city tour.
Now we were approaching Linxia, a booming city with plentiful highrises under construction. The yellow Daxia River winds passing by.
We were driving across the bridge spanning the Daxia River, leading to the city of Linxia.
At a crossroad with Linxia Hotel at the front.
One the main street in the city of Linxia.
The heart of the city of Linxia, the most commercial area.
Another main avenue in Lixia.
Linxia Long Distance Bus Station
We were leaving from Linxia and said goodbye to the Daxia River.
On the way from Linxia to Lanzhou on the Highway 213, we saw a lot of mosques in the villages of various sizes on the loess.