Jiayuguan at night - bus stop1
Even the bus stops have neonlights!
I arrived in Dunhuang this morning and it is easily the coldest place I have ever been to. My fingers froze during the 500m walk from the train station to the taxi and bus stand. Once again, good old winter has meant thant anything recommnedd in the LP by way of hostels, hotels or restaurants is closed. They should have two editions, a sumer one (which could just be the normal edition) and then a winter one, where they remove 90% of the thing recommended in the book. This meant that finding an actual dorm room was impossible and once again I am in a hotel, paying more than I wanted to but at least it is heated.
I decided to have a few days here as there is a bit to see around Dunhuang; so today was just going to be a day to get settled in and find my way around town. However, at the train station I was pounced on by about 5 taxi and minibus drivers wanting to take me to all the sights right there and then, 'good price, let's go?' Um no, not yet anyway. They must be starved of tourists out here.
Luckily I was rescued by a local man who helped me onto the bus and then helped me find a hotel, which was very kind of him as we walked around for a bit.
After that I rugged up some more and headed out onto the streets of Dunhuang, but crikey its cold. My ears immediately lost all feeling, it was like they were expertly removed from my head in one quick slice, gone: no pain, no feeling. I managed to wander around for a while before stumbling upon the night markets, which operate during the day as well it seems. Here I grabbed a quick fried dough snack and then checked out the local fish, meat, veggies, noodles, spices, lollies, hardware, clothes ecetera, basically anything you could think of.
On my way out of the markets my attention was taken by a young kid yelling and lighting huge gas fires under tiny little stone bowls filled with all manner of things. I walked over and asked what one of the brothy bowls was called, asked how much it was and decided to give whatever it was a go. It turned up on my table in a few
minutes boiling away in its little stone pot, I waited for it to cool down a bit and then tucked in. It was a mixture of what I think were some sort of rough tofu-like noodles, seaweed noodles, chinese cabbage, mushrooms, and little sausage meat balls (which at one stage had me thinking that they were an animals testicles) and the whole thing was pretty damn tasty albeit an unlikely mixture.
Having gained some warmth from my soup I cntiued wandering around and came across the advaced train ticket booking offie and was able to purchase a ticket to Urumqi for the 2nd of January, I hink I have the system down pat ow: I have written out "I would like a hard sleeper ticket" in Chinese and then I show them the name of where I want to go in the LP, I then also have a sentence that says "how much" and another that says "what time does it leave?" Somehow this seems to work, well so far anyway. So I leave for Urumqi on the 2nd of January at 8.30pm and arrive at 7am-ish the next day, which is awesome as the train to Kashgar departs
from Urumqi at 3.50pm daily, so hopefully I can buy a ticket straight to Kashgar. So I will be in Dunhang for New Year's but something tells me that it might be a little non-existant like my Christmas, although I did see firecrackers for sale in the markets today...
Anyway, while in the market I bumped into a taxi driver who helped the local guy that was helping me, and he pnced on me and asked if I wanted to go and see the Mogao caves and the Crescent Moon Lake. The Magao Caves are a system of caves dating from AD366 to about 1400 (I think), they were once home to over 18 Buddhist monasteries and 1400 monks: caves were dug out of the cliff-face, the money being donated by wealthy traders or officials and then the walls of the cave were painted with Buddhist images. The Crescent Moon Lake is a pond which lies in the middle of the sand dnes that lie to the south of Dunhuang. So, I negotiated with the taxi driver adn managed to secure him for the whol day to take me to both places for a pretty reasonable sum, and if
all goes well tomorrow I might ask him whether he will take me to the Western Thousand Buddha Caves the day after.
Sorry about the spelling, these keyboards aren't the greatest.
Matt out but back soon!
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