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Published: August 2nd 2015
As one of the iconic towns along the Silk Road Dunhuang is incredibly popular, as the thousands upon thousands of domestic tourists proved to us. It's easy to see why so many people make the long journey out here, the sights are quite special.
First up for us was the Mogao Caves, or at least that was the plan. We knew there is a limit of 6000 visitors per day, and that tickets sold out quickly, but were taken aback when we got to the ticket office on Friday evening to be told there were no tickets at all for the next several days - more days than we were staying, merde !! There was one option left - what are called "emergency tickets". We had no idea what these were but could buy 2 for the following day so snapped them up. The entry time on the tickets was 16h30 so we arrived well before then and sat in the cafe for a bit. When we went back outside there was a massive queue, 5 or 6 people wide and well over 50m long, no worries we thought our ticket says 16h30 entry so this can't be where we
have to line up - wrong, it was our queue, merde again !! Two hours later we finally made it onto one of the internal shuttle buses that run to the caves themselves. The walk from the bus stop to the entrance is a few hundred metres and as there didn't seem to be so many people around we hoped we'd now seen the back of long queues, wrong yet again !! how can two relatively experienced, middle aged travelers continue to be so hopeful and naive ?!? Another hour of waiting later, where at times we almost lost the will to live, and we were in !! Yes !! Now all that remained were the 10 minutes of queuing for 5 minutes of looking in each of 4 caves - the final sting in the tail being that the emergency ticket has a shorter itinerary then the standard tickets. After another shuttle bus ride we got the bus back into town at around 9pm. We'd spent ~5 hours of queuing for 20 minutes of looking. What we did see was stunning, we just wish we'd been able to see more and queue less, but that's the way it goes.
We knew we were in for a long haul the next day so were prepared for it. Yadan National Park is a mind blowing, skin stripping experience that's worth every one of the 11/12 hours it takes to get there and back from Dunhuang. Neither of us has experienced such hostile and windy conditions but, for all the pain and discomfort that goes with having sand and grit forcibly inserted into every orifice, loved it. Neither words nor pictures can really describe what a place it is.
The last of the things we wanted to see was the easiest and most straightforward. A few km south of the town are some huge sand dunes. Although they are heavily commercialised - so many people take camel rides around sunset there are camel jams, it's easy enough to find your own space which we managed to do. Other than the hard work of climbing up a dune or two it was a relaxing peaceful afternoon lying in the sun on the hot sand, perfick.
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