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 Roadalong 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
Tip: Hassle-free Dunhuang Guided Tours If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours, here are some options for Dunhuang Guided Tours: