I was too tired to write last night, so I will catch up with yesterday now.
We arrived at Dunhuang’s very small airport. Dunhuang is a small city – an oasis in the Gobi Desert. It is irrigated by nearby snow-capped mountains. The temperature range now is about 15-35°C. Annual rainfall is only 14mm.
This morning we went out to the sand dunes. It was very beautiful – I have never been to a desert before. It is a whole lot of nothing and fascinating to look at. It would be a good place for contemplation.
We got to ride camels. They are cool animals and seemed to be very well trained, if a bit stupid. They were losing their hair because of the summer. We rode out to a man-made lake. I liked the whole experience, except for getting sand in everything.
We are now chilling in an area of the desert called Yanguan pass. This used to be a big city during the Han dynasty. It was destroyed by a flood, and now there is nothing left. I took a horse ride here and saw a pretty oasis.
By the way, our guide here is Li Hong, the same person who guided LSU in 1998. She’s only about 5 feet tall.
The food here is more unusual, and spicier. We have things like intestine, stomach, and tofu with blood. I only like about half of it.
The art here definitely shows more Indian and Tibetan influences.
I am now riding on a Chinese train. It is the first time I have ridden a train, or at least the first that I remember. We are traveling first class. Each room has 4 beds, bunked; 2 on each side. Second class has 6 beds per room, and the lowest class is sitting only. The train is much nicer than I expected: I wish plane rides could be this nice. I think the top speed of this train is 120 kph.
The desert in this region is mostly black sand with some beautiful black mountains: a stark contrast to the stereotypical yellow sand.
This morning we visited the Mogao Grottoes, a series of around 500 man-cut caves, each of which is filled with art and statues of the Indian style. My favorite one contained a Buddha approximately 72m tall.
1. Dunhuang is actually the coolest place (temperature-wise) we have been.
2. Chinese call you to come towards them with all fingers and the palm facing down.
3. Beer is cheaper than water. [As low as 2.5 yuan/bottle for beer.]
4. Dunhuang drivers are extremely horn-happy. Whenever they come anywhere near another car/person/bike, they honk.