After seeing some photos of places in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu, I decided to push to the region. I’m glad that I did. Of my favourite things I saw in all of China, I think 4 of them were in this region. It really was worth the long haul to get out here. Over the past couple weeks I’ve seen the Zhangye Rainbow Mountains, the westernmost section of the Great Wall of China, and Mati Si, all of which were awesome.
My final destination before making the long haul over to Mongolia was a piece of desert just outside of the town of Dunhuang and The Crescent Moon Oasis and Temple.
About Dunhuang and the Crescent Moon Oasis
This is unlike any section of desert I’ve seen in my life; and I’ve been to a lot of them. Basically, the dunes come out of nowhere. You’ve got flat farmlands throughout the region with a series of mountains that form a spine across it all. Then, these dunes just spring from the flats and into the sky. It’s pretty cool.
The area around the Oasis in Dunhuang is actually a protected park. And like most Chinese parks you can’t just wander through here, the vast majority of it is blocked off by fences meaning you need to pay entrance to visit the park, oasis and temple. In reality though, I think it’s a good thing. It helps maintain the natural region better this way.
The cost of entry to the Oasis and dunes is 120 Yuan. The entrance fee doesn’t include any of the many extra activities available inside such as camel rides, ATV rides, etc. The ticket is also only valid for one day. If you can present a student’s card, the cost is 50% off.
The park’s hours depend on sunrise and sunset. From what I understood, you could only visit the park at sunrise with a special tour. However, the park was open for sunset without a problem, as you can see in the video. There was no real set closing time, people just started funneling out once the sun set. There are some overnight excursions available in the park as well. Thus, the opening hours seem more like suggestions.
Getting to Dunhuang
There are trains that leave from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang however the hours are insane. I think the three trains run at 1am, 2am, and 4am for the 4 hour journey. The return trip is much more sane. There are also 4 or 5 buses from Jiayuguan that take about 5 hours leaving from the central bus terminal. Once in Dunhuang, you’ll either be staying near the dunes or in town. There are buses that run from town to the dunes constantly and cost 1 Yuan.