Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dunhuang part 1 - a desert oasis (with camels!!!)

From Turpan, we drove about 470 miles (about 12 hours) to get to Dunhuang, in the Gansu province (from Kashgar until now, we had been in the Xinjiang province aka Chinese Turkestan).  All along the drive, we had desert, with mountains in the background.  

Be sure that you 'blckle up'!!

We went to the night market in Dunhuang for dinner.  While the city felt very small and quiet, the market was extremely busy!

A couple of us (including Cliff and Louise pictured) chose this place for dinner.  They gave you a bowl and you picked out vegetables and other stuff for your meal and then the lady in the back of the photo weighed it (you paid by weight) and then cooked everything in a broth and gave you back a big bowl of soup.  It was really good!

No jamming in the fire exit!

Gino decided that we all needed to experience Chinese karaoke (here it's known as KTV), so we found this place.  It was a little over the top on the decorating....

After finally deciding that they could accommodate us (there was no one else there, so I'm not sure why that was a problem), they gave us this room where we waited and waited before they decided to share with us that their karaoke system wasn't working.

So we went to another place, this time decorated with xmas decorations (it's currently July).  Apart from the decor, this place was a success and singing happened.  Mostly it turned into a singalong with everyone, because Claire (our Chinese guide) was the only one who would get up to sing on her own....

Brendan likes to buy melons and then we all have to help him eat them.  Here's a giant cantaloupe he bought for probably about 50 cents.  It was really tasty and grown locally.  Watermelon are also grown in this area.

The major sites to visit in Dunhuang are the Singing Sands Mountain, Crescent Moon Lake, and Mogao Caves.  On the way to visit the mountain and lake, I had to wait for a line of camels to pass.

That's the sand mountain in the distance.

No rain in sight, but we saw a cool rainbow!

Most of the Chinese tourists rent these crazy orange booties to wear over their shoes so they don't get sand in their shoes.  They look really funny!


Some more ever impressive translations....

Crescent Moon Lake is an oasis that's been here a long time.

I decided to go on a camel ride.  Here's my camel.  I found it easier and more comfortable to ride than a horse.  It's easier to get on too - you do that while it's sitting down.  It's a little exciting when the camel stands up though - and when he/she sits back down at the end....

My view during the ride....

Camel butt!

Hi Mom and Dad!  I'm riding a camel!

Not much out there but sand and camels.

Near the top of a hill was a camel parking lot.  They wanted us to get off the camel, and then pay more money to climb up the sand hill to then sled back down.  I was not a good tourist and skipped that part.

Some of the Chinese tourists look ridiculous with so many clothes on.  I don't know how they avoid heat stroke - it had to be close to 100 degrees out.

A cool 'sand castle' 

Ruins in the desert

Outside of Turpan we went to visit Jiaohe Ruins, which are the remains of an ancient city from about 1600 years ago.  We visited in the afternoon when it was REALLY hot, and we were pretty much just moving from one shade patch to the next.  I think we all would have gotten more out of this visit if it had been cooler temperatures.  That being said, overall it was an interesting place to visit.  In the first photos, it's a little hard to tell that these were once buildings, but further down, it will become much more obvious.

Can you tell that I'm hot?  In an attempt to stay sorta cool (or at least not completely bake), I was carrying around an extra 2 liters of water and dumping it on my head about every 10 minutes or so....

While much of what we saw I think was original, there were some sections (like this photo) that were or had been reconstructed.  There were also several sections where I noticed they had painted the stone (maybe to help keep it from deteriorating?) and that detracted a bit from the visit for me....