Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jul 30 - Dunhuang and on to Hami

Another early start - wakeup at 6:30, breakfast at 7, baggage outside the room by 7:20 and off by 8. We went to the Ming Sha Shan, the singing sand dune park. This is a huge long sand dune, 40 km long. The highest dune reaches 1715 m, perhaps 150 m from the bottom. You pay to enter the park, and then climb the sand dunes and then slide down, then climb and come down, etc. Or you can do as we did, and take a camel ride to near the top, then continue to walk around a bit. Then you get back on the camel and ride to Crescent Moon Lake, a naturally occuring body of water surrounded by green trees and planting. There you get a chance to climb other dunes, and slide down. They take a picture of your camel train and each individual on the way up. The are matted, then sold at a ridiculously cheap price, at 20 RMB ($3 US). So we have a picture of us on the camels.

A camel ride for one hour is only 60 RMB ($9), pretty much the cheapest tourist camel rides in the world. So we did the tourist thing big time, and had a blast. After all, shouldn't everyone ride a camel at least once in his/her lifetime? There must have been 200 camels kneeling, all waiting to be ridden. By the time we returned, there were only about 20 available in the staging area. Strings of camels were all over the park.

On the way out of the park, Mike bought a Hami melon for 5 RMB. When we opened it for lunch, it was OK, but not yet really ripe. Between the park and lunch, the group had 45 minutes to kill, so we visited the Handicraft Factory (an oxymoron if there ever was one) where we saw the making of carpets and the preparation of fine jade objects. The jade cups were so translucently thin that you could see through them, but they were also very expensive, and impossible to carry in our backpacks for the rest of the trip.

Lunch at 12 at the Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel. Left at 1, and got a glimpse of the real residential Dunhuang, as we picked up our guide's ten year old daughter for the trip to Hami. To be continued.

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