June 6

2:15 PM


            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.


Sand dunes


Riding camels






4:06 PM


            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.




June 7

10:46 PM


            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 train just before we boarded it

于老師 and her daughter in our room

The train's bathroom - cleaner than I expected!

Looking down the hallway of the train


            The desert in this region is mostly black sand with some beautiful black mountains: a stark contrast to the stereotypical yellow sand.


Darker sand here

Black mountains



            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.


            Other observations:

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.