Silk Road Attractions - Xi'an to Dunhuang
We just got back from Xi'an a couple of weeks ago. It was our second trip to Xi'an in China and I truly enjoyed every minute of this ancient city which was the first capital of China. Its old name was better known as Chang'an where all the tourists today, could see the famous Terracotta Warriors besides the tomb of Emperor Shi Huang Ti and many other famous sites like the ancient City Walls. During our first trip in 2014, we stayed a week to visit many places and climbed up the most dangerous Huashan Mountains too. You can look up my previous Xi'an trips at the side bar of this blog if you are interested.
Many authors of Genghis Khan and Marco Polo's history, had written that Silk Road is an ancient trade route between China and Europe in 200 B.C. It all started from Xi'an in China and the route spanned across many countries including Mongolia, India, Russia, Persia until Africa before ending at the Turkish empire in Europe. Along the route, Chinese traders barter traded their many products in every little towns and the most prized items were the original China's Silk that attracted the foreigners.
Xi'an Railway Station
(Shaanxi Province - China)
This trip, we took the 24 hour train ride from Xi'an to Dunhuang because their internal flights are often over priced to cost a bomb! We wanted to see Mogao Caves since a decade ago and it was like a dream come true, with a price too. You will never get bored with Xi'an which is a huge ancient city since the Han Dynasty when the Silk Road started.
We stayed 2 nights at the Grand Soluxe Hotel in Xi'an which was just 2 minutes
walk to the railway station. We got there an hour before the gates were opened.
We booked the soft bed sleeping berths which had 4 beds.
It was a hell ride as they allowed smoking at both ends
of all the coaches. They Chinese men smoked from sunrise till sunset
and until next sunrise. The filth of their nicotine smoke penetrated all
our lungs and it was a terrible journey. May they all rot in hell.
It was quite comfortable with closed door privacy
to enjoy the scenic view for the next 24 hours!
It was a long shaky ride.
I am a 6 footer and the beds are 7 feet in length.
So I had no complains. It was minus temperature at
Winter and they turned on the central heating at dusk.
We tried eating their meals at the restaurant coach.
There were over 20 coaches running but less than 1%
of the passengers ate there. Guess why?
Their mainland Chinese cooking always looked messy
with very bland taste. I just swallowed them with the help of
water and told myself to just do as the Romans
do when you are in Rome. Bluek!
Now look at the prices in their menu! No wonder all the other passengers
ate the cheap huge cup noodles with the free flow of hot water!
On our return trip, we bought ahead, plenty of bread, snacks, fruits
and our own cup noodles instead. All eaten happily ever after.
After makan, my wife was restless and took out her Korean
charcoal masks as the air was very dry. She looked like the
Black Face General and should have walked around to scare
all the smokers to death.
I spent hours looking at the country sides of China which
were all in grey and brown shades as it was Winter.
We passed through a hundred tunnels, many mountains, canyons
including the Gobi Desert. It was a spectacular sight to
see the melted snow everywhere.
My restless wife could not sit still. She climbed all over the
place like a cute monkey. This area is the cheaper sleeping triple
decker with hard beds and no privacy doors.
I saw many poor farmers along the way. They lived in wooden cottages
with mud walls and reared skinny looking goats.
My restless wife who goes hiking daily at the Kiara Park hills
had to do some exercise. Here she did push ups in the mid air.
Dunhuang Railway Station
(Gansu Province - China)
We arrived Dunhuang after 24 hours train ride.
Look at our 2 cabin bags!
We had little clothes for 10 days trip.
It was -4C and freezing outside the Dunhuang Railway Station.
It was Winter and the whole town was almost dead
with little or no foreigners. I guessed we were the
only 2 foreigners! Well, everything is at the cheapest
in Winter with cheap air tickets, hotels and
entrance fees with no crowds to push you.
The arch along the highway to the city area of Dunhuang.
Dunhuang is a very neat & spotlessly clean city with much Buddhism influence.
Here you will see many sculptures and statues of
graceful Boddhisatvas every where.
We stayed at Tian Run International Hotel
after reading so many reviews as a guidance
for my bookings. It is perfectly located right in the
heart of the city.
We paid less than RM150 a night for a big and comfortable
room with modern glass walled bathroom. Comes with
central heating and a fabulous TV box that airs hundreds
of good movies in Chinese and English. Their internet wifi
was too weak and slow like a dying snail. Pfftttt!!!
We hurriedly got to the site of Magao Caves to purchase our entrance tickets
and attend to their preview showing the dark interiors of the
caves. All the caves are dark with no lights or windows.
The coach transported us to the actual site of Mogao Caves
some 3-5 kilometers away.
Mogao Caves - Dunhuang
(Gansu Province - China)
The front view of the whole Magao Caves with frozen river
which consists of over 1000 caves. According to legend,
in 366 C.E. a monk named Yuezun had a vision of a thousand
radiant Buddhas on the cliff face, which inspired him to begin
excavating the caves. Today there are many more than a thousand
painted and sculpted Buddhas within the caves.
From the 4th to the 14th century, hundreds of caves were
painstakingly hand carved out of the alluvial conglomerate rock
cliff face, under the sponsorship of Buddhist monks, local officials,
and wealthy families who wished to build karmic merit and perform
an act of veneration. Nearly 500 of the elaborately decorated
caves remain today.
The caves were carved by hand, complete with altars and statues
at around 1,700 years ago.
The tour guides would just carry a small torch light to show
the interior and wall of the caves which are opened
to visitors in random numbers of 8-10 daily.
The caves contain the world’s largest collection of Buddhist art.
The decorated caves’ walls and ceilings, totaling close
to 500,000 square feet, are covered by elaborate paintings
depicting stories of the Buddha, Buddhist sutras, portraits
of cave donors, ornamental designs, and scenes of social
and commercial life.
The Library Cave (Cave 17), which was unsealed by Wang Yuanlu,
contained nearly 50,000 ancient manuscripts, silk banners and
paintings, fine silk embroideries and other rare textiles dating
from before the early 1000s, when this cave and all its contents
were concealed for reasons still unknown.
The caves also contain more than 2,000 brightly painted clay
sculptures of the Buddha and other figures, the largest sculpture
being over 100 feet tall.
Hope you enjoyed the photos. The next post will share the
camel rides across the desert at Mingshan Mountains.