Train to Dunhuang, Dunhuang caves

New photos

After some discussion about where to travel to with our time off, we took Lili’s recommendation, deciding to go to DunHuang in Gansu province. We left Urumqi on an overnight train to Dun-huang at about 7:30 pm and arrived at our destination around 8:30 the following day. The train, like most in China, was comfortable but as Dad noted, strangely almost vacant even by Amtrak’s standards. We later discovered from Guli, the ticket taker, eastbound trains are always like this. Guli is Ulghur, one of the 56 minorites minorities in China. It turns out most tourists travel westward through China and find they way back by other means. Our return train to Urumqi was much more common site in China: full.

After arriving in DunHuang, we bounced across the desert in the minibus while the tour guide, or dao you, gave a brief introduction to Gansu province. We went with a Chinese tour group since our experience has been that the English-speaking tour guides sometimes end up not really speaking English. In any event, the considerable language barrier Chinese was evident as the dao you ran off statistics about the province. Comprehension of what was being told to us sort of faded in and out like static on a faintly tuned in radio station, but we got the general idea.

In Dunhuang our first stop was the famous caves along the Silk Road with Buddhist frescos; according to a tour book, Dunhuang has 492 caves, with 45,000 square meters of frescos, 2, 415 painted statues and five wooden-structured caves. It seems Dunhuang’s remote location and dry climate provided the perfect environment for preserving these paintings, although some were sold off in the 1800s. Even during the cultural revolution, according to our guide, the Red Guards or hong wei bing never gained popularity in Dunhuang, Gansu, like the movement had in other parts of China, and consequently saved the national treasure. These days 10 caves of the 492 are open per day and each year different caves are selected for public display. Unfortunately photography isn’t permitted. Like The Strand bookstore in New York, you have to check your bag.

Later we went to Crescent lake, about 10 minutes south of Dunhuang. The pond-in-the-desert oddity speaks for itself. Its truly a unique place.

Our start date has been postponed to the 9th. At that point we’ll go straight through until the 28th when we leave. Hope all is well. I’ll try to post more soon.

Regards, Rob
Changji, Xinjiang, Chin


Xinjiang update

I gotcha Ürümqi (pics) right here!

The province we’re in is Xinjiang, the capital we flew in, is Ürümqi. We’re not actually in Ürümqi, rather about an hour by bus northwest of it in a town called Changji
昌吉). Check out pages XinJiang I and Xinjiang II, Changji, quite a bit cleaner than Ürümqi, is mostly populated by Han Chinese. As far as language goes, my guess is because Han Chinese aren’t indigenous to the region, there’s no discernable accent; people speak a pretty standard dialect of Mandarin. So far communication hasn't been a big a problem.

It ain’t the heat it’s the humidity!

Despite being next to the Gobi desert, we’ve had great weather, very dry of course. It’s like winter in New York, but warm: the shower towel takes about 30 minutes to dry, the temperature has been in the 80s and low 90s. One of the special characteristics about the region, the reason people can live here, is the plentiful ground water. Sprinklers are everywhere; there are trees flowers and grass. Although among Chinese, Xinjiang is mostly famous for its grapes and melons; the region also produces plenty of other local fruits and vegetables, like corn strawberries and pears, you buy directly from the farmer.

The population density in Changji is much more humane than the east cost of China. Crossing the street is not risking your life, There’s plenty of space to walk or ride your bike, like other cities in China, an entire lane is designated for bikes,

Yesterday (June 24) we took a trip to Ürümqi and visited the major park Hong Shan (red mountain). As mentioned above, it’s a little dirtier than Changji and with its enormous white brick buildings, looks remarkably similar to other cities in China. At the top of Hang Shan, as is the custom at other parks in China, couples attach padlocks to a chain threaded through a railing to represent their devotion. Check out the pictures in
Xinjiang II page.

Tonight, (June 25) we’re going to the local square in Changji to sing a few songs and talk to people, hopefully draw attention promote the English school.

Some have expressed interest in how long it took to get here. Below is my itinerary.

June 19
Departs: 7:55pm
Arrives: 11:01pm
Total air time: 5:19

June 20
Departs: 1:40am
Arrives: 5:20am
Total air time: 12:15

June 21
Departs: 8:20am
Arrives: 12:10pm
Total air time: 3:30


A very happy birthday!

Nothing like a heartfelt letter from my state senator to
celebrate the birthday. Thanks Senator.



For the last several weeks I’ve been pulling teaching materials together. In XinJiang, aside from teaching English, I’ll also begin training for the New York City marathon. Apparently training itself isn’t tough enough, had to do it in the Gobi desert.


Where I'll be. . .




This photo was taken over Memorial Day weekend on the west arm of Grand
Traverse Bay, Michigan. Yes, I'm skipping a stone.