2005-07-04

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

7 Comments:

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