A Dry and Dusty Land

After sitting in a hard seat for 19 hours to arrive in Dunghuang, we were a bit tired to say the least. We opted for the hard seat both to prove it as a challenge to us of endurance and to also save money as independent travelers. To tell you the truth, the train pretty much emptied out long before our destination, so we were able to spread out on the seats and sleep. Watching the scenery go by as the train rolled on, it changed from leafy green to canyoned rivers to short brush and finally to mud brown desert with hardly a tree to be seen.

The highlight of the town was of course the Gobi Desert, which after seeing the Sahara truly has some seriously high sand dunes. There are some that are over 800 feet high and some even covered with snow. From a distance, they look solid and resemble mountains but are of course completely made of sand. Leave it to the Chinese to make money from the experience, so arriving at Mingsha Dunes where there is a crescent shaped lake, there is a ticket office but we walked a few minutes and found a side road used by the camel trekkers and entered for free. Now, I am not condoning beating the system to save a few yuans but at the same time following the spirit of independent travelers, it was nice to get away with it and have a story to share. We hiked for a few hours and after a while lost the town amidst the sand dunes and truly felt the awesomeness and nothingness of the desert. To make the day slightly weirder, it even started to rain and then hail for a while.

Buddhist relics exist all over China, but the ones at Magao Caves defiy wonder as there are over 700 caves dating back some over 1,500 years containing religious objects along with the third tallest buddha after the one at Leshan. Much of the site is influenced by Hindu culture, so the scenery contains animal objects and apsaras, flying angels that protect buddha.

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