Today we spent our final morning in Xi’an. We said goodbye to our talkative tour guide, Helen, and made it to the airport with just enough time to grab some Burger King and board the plane. We landed in Dunhuang about two hours later and were relieved to be in the desert. After being in two cities, it was refreshing to see the sand dunes and mountains in the distance that were not hidden behind any smog. Our new tour guide, Larry, was excited to usher us to the bus so that we could begin our journey to the Mogao Caves. At the caves, we were able to see various pieces of art from different dynasties and periods of history. We also learned that Buddhism was heavily influenced by Indian culture. Inside the caves there were many different Buddhist statues, paintings and scripts, the most exciting of which included the second and third largest statues of Buddha in China and the famous sleeping Buddha statue.
Next we made our way to dinner, where we enjoyed a typical Chinese supper. We ate quickly because we were anxious to get to our next destination, the sand dunes. We had been hearing about riding in the camels on the sand dunes from Mr. Freedholm. Before riding the camels, we took a short ride to see a beautiful oasis right before sunset. Thirty years ago, the oasis was five meters deep but sadly it is only one meter deep today. Next, we were divided into groups of five and we each mounted our own camels (which we tried to name). Some camels were more rowdy than others; Zeeza’s even wore a muzzle, because it was “young and liked to cry”. Amanda’s was very old and she doubted its ability to climb the dune at some points. Regardless, our fears disappeared once we were able to see the sunset from the top of the dunes.
A few of us decided to sled down a smaller dune in wooden sleds, which was also fun. At the bottom of the sledding dune, we hopped back on our camels and returned back to the bus. Five minutes later we finally arrived at our beautiful and large hotel, The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel. From the outside it looks like a Chinese castle, and inside there are many different corridors and Buddhist decorations that give the hotel a rustic feel.
We are extremely exhausted, but today was definitely a highlight of the trip so far. We are excited to see more of Dunhuang tomorrow!
-Zeeza and Amanda