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We had an absolutely perfect day with our tour guide - Rogin Luo - who took us for a hike along The Great Wall! Didn't know what to expect and were thrilled to have him as our guide. Very imformative, knowledgable and fun! We go to experience a part of The Great Wall that was unrestored and see all its natural beauty. Got a long history lesson along the way!

After the hike, we all went to lunch at a small place at the bottom of the hill. Located in a house, we ate lunch in the proprietors bedroom! What a hoot! Rogin is the Best of the Best! This tour company delivered for us and we are extremely grateful.

Westborough, Massachusetts
Reviews onTour-Beijing.Com
Sensual sands pull the masses to Mingsha Mountain Crescent Springs
Gansu Province's Dunhuang is famed for its strategic position on the Silk Road, where voyagers with parched throats would congregate and rest before remounting their camels. Mingsha Mountain Crescent Spring is a wellspring surrounded by mountains of sand; once the savior of visiting traders, it is now the heart of a national scenic park. Although it has the potential to be a calm oasis for the body and mind, in truth, it's more like a bustling ski resort, with grains of sand in place of flakes of snow.

Just four kilometers south of downtown Dunhuang, the park begins its day early. Before five a.m., the keen gather on the sand dune peaks to bask in the first of the sun's breaking rays. By the afternoon, full-on crowds of people hit the slopes, trekking up the hills in fluorescent orange boots that keep the sand out.

Visitors squint to see the distant masses of flowing pristine sand. The distant views of the sensually curved dunes of sand are heart-stirring, at times flawlessly smooth, at times rippled with undulating contours. The sand at your feet, however, may be less pristine, sometimes littered with empty plastic water bottles and detritus.

The Crescent Spring itself is a stereotypical desert oasis. Surrounded entirely by sweeping sand dunes, the perfect crescent moon shape is filled with pristine water (now artificially filled). However, camels may no longer slake their thirst at the spring's blue waters, as unsurprisingly they are now fenced off. Sorry camels: you can look, but you can't drink.

Camel rides are one of the park's main activities and hundreds of camels can be seen near and far, trudging along in lines. A guide leads each line of camels, tramping along by foot (which sometimes makes camel riders feel slightly lazy during the hour-long tours of the area). They certainly get everyone far enough so that they can snap some photos that are completely clear of the tourist throng.

Sophia Dongfang enjoyed her camel trek, although she felt a bit uncomfortable seeing the camels strung together by their noses. "It's pretty fun to ride a camel in the desert," she admitted, "but it is cruel to the camels. People and animals should be friends."

For those uninterested in hopping on a grumpy camel, there's plenty of other ways to keep entertained. Hiking up the many dunes keeps most people more than occupied, and the views they offer provide both hobbyists and professional shutterbugs with photo ops galore. "That sunset was really beautiful," said Mr Ni from Nanjing, gazing out at the pink glowing sky. "I took some pictures, but they won't be able to capture how amazing it actually was."

Whizzing down the dunes on sleds is also popular. However, those with more extravagant tastes can opt for renting a dune buggy, sailing skywards on a paraglider, or taking in views from a mini-plane.

One man from Australia remained unimpressed. "This has to be the biggest rip-off in China," he grumbled. "It is overrun with sandboarders, gliders, camel riders and RVs."

Touristy and crowded it may be in places, but the manifold ways of exploring the starkly empty hills, mountains and plains beyond spell escape in perfect clarity.

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