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Just back from Dunhuang

Sherbrooke, Canada
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41,316 posts
826 reviews
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Just back from Dunhuang

We just returned from a trip on the Silk Road that took us from Xi'An to Xiahe, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Turpan and Kashgar. I will post about each place in their respective forums for future travellers. We arrived in early morning by train from Jiayuguan and we were able to check into our room at the Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel (beautiful hotel). We had a quick shower then breakfast before starting our day. We actually started our day around lunch time.

We negotiated with a driver at the entrance of the hotel for a fixed rate for the rest of the day. First stop was a quick bite and we then went to the Mogao caves for the 2pm english tour. While this place is interesting and spectacular, it was fairly busy. Makes me wonder what it is like in the busy season. The english guide that we had was the worst guide I ever had in term of attitude. She asked my friends to check-in their bags but my friends questioned why since so many Chinese were entering with much bigger bag. She just walked away and sat down, not even bothering to recognized our presence. My girlfriend who had been to the caves was not going to visit so she kept the bags. Things did not improve from there so the whole tour was very uncomfortable. Nobody in our group asked a single question. We were all just going through the motions.

We then visited the museum which was somewhat interesting. Most of it is dedicated to the preservation of the site.

We then moved on to the sand dunes, hoping to catch the sunset. We had plenty of time so we took a camel tour (yeah, very touristy but we had fun and it resulted in great photos). From there we went back to town for a late dinner.

On the second day our flight was at 16h30 so we had some time to kill as we had done the key places on the first day.In the morning we went to visit some other caves at Xiqian Buddha caves. These caves are not in very good shapes but there was nobody else there and the entry fee was very cheap. We walked around the area then went back to town for lunch and walking around the city center.

This place was quite different from what we had seen so far and the dunes were spectacular (Crescent Moon lake was not as good as in photos on the web though). We enjoyed our stay there but not need to stay very long.

As advised on TA, to get our Turpan, our next destination, we flew to Urumuqi and had a driver take us to Turpan. But as we checked in at the Dunhuang airport we noticed that there was a flight going directly to Turpan. This would have saved us a lot of trouble. I suspect that this flight is not daily.

Beijing, China
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1. Re: Just back from Dunhuang

Sorry you had a crappy experience at Mogao. You're not the only foreigner I've heard of with this complaint. However, my experience last year was completely opposite. I went on the 09:00 English tour and we had about 10 people total, with a guide who was engaging and informative, and took her time. Tons of questions were asked and answered. We ended up having over 2 hours with her (9 or 10 caves). Which was a lot more time than I'd observed the Chinese groups were getting. No bag-checking issues. And it was not that busy (which surprised me). This was July 1, 2012. I also enjoyed the adjacent museum.

On balance and from anecdotes I've heard from others, it seems the first morning English tour at Mogao increases your odds of getting one of the better tour guides vs the afternoon session. The dunes are best done in the late afternoon, unless the wind is kicking up and blowing everything around.

The Dunhuang-Turpan flight on Tianjin Airlines looks seasonal. It's not on the ctrip, elong, travelzen booking sites, but you can find it on their website and also via www.qunar.com (Chinese language only). And it is ridiculously cheap promo right now. :-O However, it may be one of those things that's subject to cancellation on a given day, if there aren't enough passengers. Therefore, it may not be a flight to book without a backup Plan B train ticket in place, or Plan B DUN-URC flight.

2. Re: Just back from Dunhuang

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