Dunhuang #1 – Dunes

Dunhuang was my 4th and last stop of the Hexi Corridor. This is now beyond the fort and past the edge of the wall. Back in the day, this was an important oasis trading town out in the desert in the middle of nowhere, where two different silk road routes crossed.

I took the train there and for the first time got to try the hard sleeper. As I mentioned in another post, there are a lot of different train tickets you can get. The nicest one is soft sleeper, but I never tried that one. Hard sleeper is a compartment with 6 bunk beds, 3 on each side. The compartment is wide open, so you hear all the noise from people walking around, babies crying in other compartments, people boarding the train, talking on their phones, and farting loudly and spitting. Without earplugs, you wont get much sleep. They give you a blanket and pillow. Also, the top bunk is very close to the ceiling, so even a not tall person like me will smack their head into the ceiling on average 2 to 3 times per ride. When I woke up, I looked out the window and saw nothing but barren desert as far as the eye could see. Wow. It really hit me at that moment just how far out in the middle of nowhere I had gotten.

Food-wise, Dunhuang is known for donkey meat. I decide “why not?” and went to this restaurant that is well known. They actually had an English menu which helpfully showed items like “Braised donkey penis”. Now, I didn’t have much interest in munching on donkey dicks regardless of how they were prepared, but was pretty shocked to see that the price was almost 30$… Other than the Peking Duck, this is the most expensive food I’ve seen in China. In contrast, the donkey noodles I got were only $2. The noodles had that great hand pulled noodle texture, but the sauce was just ok. Given the amount of sauce on the noodles and the amount of spices in the egg rolls, I don’t know if I could really tell the difference between donkey and any other meat. At one point, the server beckoned me to come into the kitchen and watch the guy make the noodles. It was super impressive! He was able to turn a lump of dough into noodles, completely by hand, in just 2 minutes flat. Crazy! Check out the video below if you have 2 mins to spare.

If you take the road just 5 minutes from town, you see the dunes. Oh man. It was such a crazy sight. You just look down the road and there are these *massive* 800+ foot tall dunes. It really was mesmerizing. The highlight of this area is this tiny little oasis with a temple next to it. This is one of the things I had wanted to see most on this trip ever since I saw a photo online. It is just so incredibly picturesque… A tiny little oasis surrounded by colossal dunes. I kept envisioning traders back in the day… wandering for ages through the dunes with their camel caravans and then spotting this little body of water. It must have looked so miraculous. I sat there entranced for a while and took about a million photos.

One of the things you can do here is ride an Atv. I decided to try it out and it was pretty fun to zip up and down the dunes. Eventually the guide motioned that we needed to switch and that he would drive. I guess this is where the “thrill” part of the ride is as he swerved all over the place pretty fast. At one point the guy was getting a little too close to..the crest of one of the dunes and I started feeling nervous… when all of a sudden he cuts a super sharp turn and we go streaming straight down the dune at about a million miles an hour. It was nuts!! Super fun tho.

After watching the sunset, I started climbing down the dunes and at one point you can pay to use a toboggan to zoom the rest of the way down. Afterwards, went out to get some food. Had some tasty dumplings and these *super good* ribs. Yum!!

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