Journal of My 2013 China Expedition Part VI (Gansu)

July 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Journal of My 2013 China Expedition Part VI (Gansu)

Gansu Journey

Day 25 (Sunday, 8.9.2013)
Hami to Dunhuang

(Distance: 404 km)


Location of Gansu Province in China

At 9 in the morning we all left Jiageda Hotel in Hami City and went to a gas-station on its outskirts to refill our vehicles. Standing at the station we looked at the city in the distance for the last time, as were going to another city, Dunhuang in Gansu Province, about 404 km away. Then we were surprised to see two red small cars that had three wheels each came appeared at the gas-station. That was my first time seeing such a kind of vehicles.

A gas-station on the outskirts of Hami City, Xinjiang, China

China Expedition members looking at Hami City for the last time before moving on to Dunhuang City in Gansu Province, China

Nowadays, these red cars seen in Hami City are a rare sight

Soon we were on our journey to Dunhuang City. At the beginning, we were crossing hot, dry, vast, flat land, barren mountainous areas, and then flat land again.

Hami-Dunhuang expressway crossing a barren mountainous area in eastern Xinjiang, China

Hami-Dunhuang expressway crossing a hot, dry, flat, vast land in north-east Gansu, China

At 1.30 p.m. we stopped at a small restaurant for lunch at a small town, Liuyanzhen. An hour later, we were off again. Later, we were travelling across a fertile land where Donghu Hami melons and watermelons were grown, and then more fertile lands where cotton plants and grapevines were grown.

China Expedition members having lunch at Liuyuanzhen, a border town in north-east Gansu, China

A Donghu Hami melon farm in north-east Gansu, China

A bumper harvest of Donghu Hami melon in north-east Gansu, China

At 5 p.m., we stopped at a vineyard near Dunhuang City. Fortunately, the owner and his family were busy harvesting their large, juicy purple grapes. With the owner’s permission, we entered his vineyard. The moment we stepped in, we all felt delighted to see so many bunches of ripe grapes hanging from the vines. We were lucky to have come at the right time when the fruits ripened. Happily, all of us took several shots with the fruits. Before we left, many of us bought some of his grapes and ate them with joy.

Happy China Expedition members at a vineyard near Dunhuang City, Gansu, China

A China Expedition member has fallen in love with the large, juicy grapes at a vineyard near Dunhuang City, Gansu, China

China Expedition members buying the large, juicy grapes at the vineyard near Dunhuang City, Gansu

At 5.30 p.m. we, finally, reached Dunhuang City and checked in at a hotel, Jin Ye Hotel.

China Expedition team entering Dunhuang City in Gansu at 5.30 p.m.

Jin Ye Hotel in Dunhuang City, Gansu

At 7.30 in the evening, we had dinner at the hotel. While having dinner, we celebrated one of our member’s birthday, Tang Nai Soon. He was so happy that we all felt delighted. It should be a memorable celebration for him.

China Expedition members celebrating their fellow-member’s birthday on 8.9.2013 in Dunhuang City, Gansu

Two China guides wishing Tang Nai Soon a happy birthday in Dunhuang City, Gansu

China guides celebrating Tang Nai Soon’s birthday in Dunhuang City, Gansu

Day 26 (Monday, 9.9.2013)

Dunhuang in Gansu Province

At 8.20 in the morning we left Jin Ye Hotel and went to Mingsha Mountains which were actually high sand dunes in Kumtag Desert located 6 km south of Dunhuang City.

China Expedition members in front of a large rock that says “Mingsha Mountain Crescent Spring” located 6 km south of Dunhuang City, Gansu

Mingsha Mountain in the Kumtag Desert located 6 km south of Dunhuang City, Gansu

Bright orange soft boots to protect shoes while walking on desert

On arrival we were amazed to see so many tourists going for camel ride. We bought tickets to ride the camels too. Before riding on them, we put on bright orange soft boots to protect our shoes.

Writer(R) and camel-guide, Siao Wang(L)

Soon we were riding on the camels. I was in a group of six tourists each of us riding a camel. The camels were tied to each other with a rope and led by a camel-guide, Siao Wang, in front. Soon we were joining a long line of camels with riders that snaked its way in the direction of a high dune that was three km away.

Camels waiting for riders

Writer(L) is on his way to the Mingsha Mountain, Gansu

A long line of camels with riders snakes its way to the Mingsha Mountain, Gansu

Half an hour later, we reached a higher elevation on a sand-dune where we all alighted from the camels and were asked to go for other activities, e.g. board-sliding and buggy-driving, for a short while.

Camels resting on a slope of sand-dune while their riders are having other activities

Board-sliding on a sand-dune slope

Buggy-driving on desert

I climbed up to the summit of the Mingsha Mountain(a high sand-dune) and saw a panoramic view of the desert area which was breathtaking. Later, I sat on a circular tube and went down a steep slope of the dune for a short distance. That was an enjoyable activity which I had not done so for many years. The last time I slid down a slope was when I was on a snow-covered slope of Titlis Mountain in Switzerland in 2004.

Writer on the summit of Mingsha Mountain

A spectacular view of Kumtag Desert from the summit of Mingsha Mountain, Gansu

Slowly and steadily, the camels walking back to their “station”

Having spent over half an hour on the large sand-dune, Mingsha Mountain, we mounted the camels again and our camel-guide led the camels down the dune, slowly. That was my first, enjoyable and unforgettable experience.

China Expedition team in the hot sun in the Kumtag Desert near Dunhuang City, Gansu

At 12 noon we had lunch. After lunch we went to a spot in Kumtag Desert which was several kilometres from Dunhuang City. At that spot some of our car-owners showed off their skill at driving on sand dunes without getting their vehicles stuck in the sand. There were a few unlucky ones whose cars got stuck and had to be pulled out of the sand by other vehicles. We, the spectators, were enjoying our fellow-members’ brave desert actions.

China Expedition 4X4 wheel-Drive cars in the Kumtag Desert near Dunhuang City, Gansu

Two unlucky cars in the distance got stuck in the sand in the Kumtag Desert near Dunhuang City, Gansu

Writer(L) and his two brothers, proudly, showing off their country’s flag in the Kumtag Desert near Dunhuang City, Gansu

Later, we went to an ancient place that was 25 km south-east of Dunhuang City. Known as Mogao Grottoes, it has over 700 holes or “caves” dug out in the cliff of a hill between the 4th. and 14th. Century when the north silk route was the only overland road linking China in the east with regions in the west.

In the ancient times, there were many Buddhist scrolls, manuscripts, scriptures, statues, sculptures and murals in the “caves”. But now tourists could see repainted Buddhist murals and restored statues only in some of the”caves”. It was believed that treasure hunters had taken away many of those things in the last 100 years.

China Expedition team visiting the Mogao Grottoes located 25 km south-east of Dunhuang City, Gansu

The Mogao Grottoes consisting of 735 “caves” containing Buddhist statues and murals near Dunhuang City, Gansu

When we arrived at the Mogao Grottoes, Miss Low, a guide, welcomed and brought us round to see some of the “caves”. There were four storeys of “caves” which were accessible by stair-cases. Miss Low brought us to the first two storeys and entered a few “caves” to see the murals and old Buddhist statues that were restored. We noticed that there were many “caves” in ruin and under lock. We spent about an hour and a half at that place before we left for our hotel in Dunhuang City.

China Expedition members and a guide, Miss Low(squatting beside the writer), at the Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, Gansu

A statue of Lord Buddha lying on his right side in a long “cave” in the Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, Gansu

Dunhuang Night Market in the centre of Dunhuang City, Gansu

In the evening, we went to Dunhuang Night Market in the city-centre to have dinner at a eatery belonging to Uncle Salleh. Uncle Salleh, a friendly and happy Xinjiang man, had prepared a sumptuous dinner for us, members of the China Expedition. He served us grilled lamb and chickens, and a few kinds of salads. We thanked him for such good food that we had missed for the last over twenty days during our expedition.

Writer(L) and Uncle Salleh, the proud owner of the eatery behind him at the Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

Uncle Salleh getting ready to serve the China Expedition members dinner at his eatery at Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

Uncle Salleh’s signature grilled lamb for the China Expedition members’ dinner at Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

As we were enjoying the dinner we were entertained by a young local couple singing several popular Chinese songs. A few fellow-members, happily, joined in the singing.

China Expedition members enjoying a sumptuous dinner at Uncle Salleh’s eatery at Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

A young couple entertaining the China Expedition members who are having dinner at Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

Before I went back to our hotel, I took a stroll to see many stalls selling handicrafts, clothes, foot-wear, fresh and dried fruits, etc. at the Dunhuang Night Market.

A variety of fresh fruits for sale at Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

A variety of dried fruits for sale at Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

An artist carving a picture on a soft round board at Dunhuang Night Market, Gansu

Day 27 (Tuesday, 10.9.2013)
Dunhuang – Zhengye
(Distance: 596 km)

At 8.45 a.m. we left Dunhuang City and travelled east to Zhengye City, a distance of 596 km away. On the way we came across cotton-fields and farms of sunflowers, barley and melons. But quite often we crossed hot, vast land in the Gobi Desert which was either semi-desert or desert with barren hills in the distance. After two hours of travelling, we saw a long mountain range, Qilian Mountain Range, with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Melon stalls on roadside along Dunhuang-Jiayuguan expressway, Gansu

Cotton-fields along Dunhuang-Jiayuguan expressway, Gansu

Snow-capped mountains of the Qilian Mountain Range in the distance, Gansu

At 12.30 p.m. we arrived at Jiayuguan City where we met a young handsome Gansu guide, Siao Wang, and had lunch at a restaurant. Then we went to an ancient fortress which was 6 km away. It was known as Jiayuguan Fortress which was also a pass through the western Great Wall of China.

China Expedition team entering Jiayuguan City, Gansu

Entrance to the Jiayuguan Fortress, Gansu

China Expedition members outside the Grand East Gate of Jiayuguan Fortress, Gansu

Siao Wang, our Gansu guide, describing the Jiayuguan Fortress, Gansu

Built in 1372 in the Ming Dynasty to fend off invasion from the west, Jiayuguan Fortress has a wall in a shape of trapezium connected to the Great Wall of China. Within this wall is another wall that is higher and thicker, but square in shape. To make the fortress safer a moat was built outside the first wall.

A model of the Jiayuguan Fortress, Gansu

Two towers in the western part of the fortress: Rouyuan Tower and Jiayuguan Pass Tower

General’s residence in the Jiayuguan Fortress

The inner fortress has a gate in front in the east with a tall tower on top known as Guanghua Gate, and two gates at the back in the west with tall towers on their top known as Rouyuan Gate and Jiayuguan Pass Gate. In the middle of this fort is the general’s residence. The back of the fortress faces a vast open ground which was a battle-field.

Siao Wang, the Gansu guide, pointing west and says, “That was a battle-field in the olden days.”

Battle-field outside the Jiayuguan Fortress in the olden days, Gansu

Open space in front of the Wenchang Hall in the Jiayuguan Fortress, Gansu

While we were walking on the walkway on the fortress wall, a strong sandstorm from the desert in the west came and went, suddenly. We had to covered our faces, quickly, as we had no time to look for a place to hide.

A sudden sandstorm occurs here while the China Expedition members are on the wall of the Jiayuguan Fortress, Gansu

Great Wall of China connecting the Jiayuguan Fortress in the west, Gansu

China Expedition members walking back to their cars after the interesting fortress tour, Gansu

After the interesting fortress tour, we walked back to our cars and continued our journey to Zhengye City at 4 p.m.. The expressway from Jiayuguan City to Zhengye City was good. It crossed hot desert and semi-desert areas of the Gobi Desert in Gansu. At 7 p.m. we finally arrived at Zhengye City where we had dinner and checked in at Shu Wang Fu Hai Xian Hotel in the centre of the city.

Good expressway from Jiayuguan City and Zhengye City crossing the Gobi Desert in Gansu

The sun is setting and the China Expedition members are still on the expressway in Gansu

Shun Wang Fu Hai Xian Hotel, Zhengye City, Gansu

Day 28 (Wednesday, 11.9.2013)
Zhangye(Gansu) – Zhongwei(Ningxia)

(Distance: 570 km)

Part of Zhangye City in Gansu, China

At 8 in the morning, some of our fellow-members, diligently, washed their cars clean in an open space near the hotel in Zhengye City. A few minutes later, a loud-speaker was playing a loud workout music and some hotel-workers appeared at the back of the hotel and began exercising. As I was watching them I felt I should join them in order to keep fit. Soon I was doing the workout with them for a short time. We had not done morning workout for quite sometime.

David Ho and other fellow-members of China Expedition, diligently, clean their own cars near the hotel in Zhangye City, Gansu

Some hotel-workers doing morning exercise as a workout music is played in Zhangye City, Gansu

At 9 a.m. we left Zhangye City and travelled eastwards to Zhongwei City in another province, Ningxia, a distance of 570 km. It would be another long journey, and we always hoped that it would be another safe one like all the previous ones. The road to Zhongwei was good but lots of vehicles, small and large, were using it.

Zhangye-Zhongwei expressway crossing several dry, hot, barren lands

Qilian Mountain Range as seen from Zhangye-Zhongwei expressway in Gansu, China

Farms are cultivated in areas where there are water irrigation systems along Zhangye-Zhongwei espressway, China

It crossed hot, dry lands and a few mountain ranges, e.g. Qilian Mountain Range, that could be seen in the distance from the road. Farms like barley, sunflowers, melons and corns were cultivated in some areas where water was available from irrigation systems or oases.

Mr. Wong(2nd. from right), the proud owner of the restaurant behind him, posing with some China Expedition members in Wuwei, China

Mr. Wong’s smart-looking cooks

A group photo of Mr. Wong, his staff and members of the China Expedition team in Xin Ya Restaurant in Wuwei City, Gansu

At 12.30 p.m. we arrived at Wuwei City where we took our lunch at a restaurant, Xin Ya Restaurant. The owner of the restaurant, Mr. Wong, felt happy and honoured to have us from Malaysia and Singapore as his customers. After lunch, we all obliged him to have a group photograph taken with him and his staff. That was the first time a restaurant-owner in China requested us to do so and we were glad to do it.

Siao Wang(3rd. from right), our Gansu guide, posing with our China special guides

Before we continued our journey to Zhongwei in Ningxia Province, we bid our Gansu-guide, Siao Wang, farewell. At 2 p.m. we left Wuwei City and travelled across hot, dry lands. The sky was blue with a few clouds all the time.

At 6 p.m. when we were near Zhongwei, we saw the Yellow River(Huang He) for the first time. It is China’s second longest river which is 5464 km long. Its source is in the Tibetan Plateau. When it reaches Gansu and Ningxia Provinces, it forms a loop known as “Ordos Loop”. It flows eastwards through 7 states in China before reaching the Gulf of Bohai.

Hot, dry land and blue sky with little clouds in Gansu, China

The first sighting of the Yellow River(Huang He) in Nimgxia Province, China by the China Expedition team

At 6.30 p.m. we, finally, reached Zhongwei City. We checked in at a hotel, Da Kong Hotel, first before we went to a restaurant nearby for dinner.

Previous / Home / Next

Journal of My 2013 China Expedition:

Part I      Thailand

Part II     Yunnan

Part III    Tibet

Part IV     Qinghai

Part V      Xinjiang

Part VI     Gansu

Part VII   Ningxia

Part VIII Inner Mongolia

Part IX    Beijing

Written by Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia