This was supposed to be my graduation trip but I didn’t make it. At the end of 2015, I finally got some time off and therefore I restarted my travel plan for Gansu. You won’t believe it! But the air fare from Mianyang of Sichuan Province, where I was staying, to Lanzhou of Gansu Province, was very cheap. After made up my mind, I began to ask my friends to see if any of them wanted to come with me.Luckily, five of my friends were happy to travel with me though others were saying that it was not a good idea to make a trip to the northwest of China during the cold December. Due to our limited time, we hadn’t gone to my dream places, Zhangye and Xiahe. By the 5 days we covered Lanzhou, Jiayuguan and Dunhuang. I have to say that it was full of surprises.
Budget: 2,800RMB per person.
Mianyang/Chongqing/Chengdu – Lanzhou – Jiayuguan
We each departed from the city we were staying then and flied to Lanzhou. Due to the heavy fog around Sichuan Province, our flights all delayed for about 5 hours. It was not so cold in Lanzhou. I was wearing the same clothes as before in Sichuan and felt fine. It took about an hour’s driving from the Lanzhou airport to its downtown area. We took the airport shuttle bus at 30RMB the minute we got off the plane and headed to taste the popular “Masanyangyupian (spicy sliced potato)”. It was very delicious and I liked it very much! After that we wandered on the nearby pedestrian street and bought some food for next day’s breakfast on the train.Then we headed to the Lanzhou Railway Station to take the train to Jiayuguan at 21:25 (The train number was K9661).
Jiayuguan (The First Strategic Post of the Great Wall, The Hanging Great Wall, The Jiayuguan Fortress) – Dunhuang
At about 8am in the morning, we arrived at the Jiayuguan Railway Station. The weather here was a bit colder than in Lanzhou. When we came out from the station, we saw Ms Wang, the private car driver we booked in advance was waiting for us. Since we already had breakfast on the train, we headed directly to the first scenic spot in Dunhuang – The First Strategic Post of the Great Wall. Ms Wang was a nice person who also helped us to buy the coach ticket to Dunhuang. The entrance ticket of The First Strategic Post was 21RMB and the battery car was 10RMB per person.
On the way to The Post we saw thin snow which made us quite excited because we hadn’t seen snow before living in the south of China. The sky was blue offering us a happy mood. The Post was really amazing. In fact, we were surprised not only because of the magnificent Post but also the particularly blue sky in the northwest of China against the vast Gobi desert. You could shoot very gorgeous pictures from any random angles. As we were there during the off season, there were not many tourists but us in the scenic spot. It is hard to describe our feeling when only the six of us were here! The Post was said to be the western starting point of the Ming Great Wall and an important part of the Jiayuguan Pass defense system. Its history and importance made it more mysterious. We were so excited that we overstayed our planned time here and in turn, made our following journey a bit hurried.
The second scenic spot today was the Hanging Great Wall (Xuanbi Changcheng in Chinese). There were two hanging Great Walls; one is the real Great Wall and the other one was constructed by a local holiday village. So be careful here and don’t go to the “fake” one!
The last scenic spot was the Jiayuguan Fortress, the only national AAAAA scenic spot at Jiayuguan. The fortress was an important traffic fort on the Ancient Silk Road. It was a half priced during the off season and we only paid 60RMB per person. Standing on the top of the fortress, we were truly shocked by its magnificence. We only stayed here for one hour and went out quickly after taking many grand pictures.
Then Ms Wang sent us to the Jiayuguan Passenger Station and recommended us a nice place, called Masongji Niuroumian Restaurant, to eat the anthentic beef noodles. Each of us had a big bowl of beef noodles at 6RMB per person. The noodles were the only meal we had at Jiayuguan and were also very delicious. We got on the coach to Dunhuang after the meal. Because we were so tired that we all fell asleep on the way to Dunhuang. Four and a half hours later we arrived at the Dunhuang Passenger Station. It was already 7pm when our pre-booked private car picked us up. We checked in at the Dunghe Grand Hotel, No. 589on Shazhou Nanlu (Shazhou South Road), 90RMB for a standard room. The hotel provided complete indoor facilities, which left us a deep impression. After a bit rest, we headed to the Dunhuang Shazhou Night Market, where we tasted Dapanji (chicken), Roujiamo (Chinese hamburger) and more. After the meal, we came back to our hotel with round bellies.
In Dunhuang ( The Ancient City of Dunhuang, The Western Thousand-Buddha Cave, The Yangguan Pass, The Yumenguan Pass, The Great Wall of Han Dynasty, The Yadan Ghost Town)
We charted a business car of 9 seats in advance for today’s tour and departed at 11am to the downtown to book the entrance tickets of the Dunhuang Mogao Caves for next day’s visit. The ticket for the Mogao Caves was 80RMB during the off season. We also booked the tickets for the movies about Mogao Caves which was 60RMB each. Our first destination of today was the Dunhuang Ancient City, whose ticket was 40RMB. Personally, I would not suggest you visit it if your time is limited. It was constructed 1n 1987 for the setting of the historical film－Dunhuang. Now it is the biggest set for shooting movies of China’s northwestern region.
The second destination was the Western Thousand-Buddha Cave (Xi Qianfodong), whose ticket was 30RMB. The history of the caves here is longer than Mogao Caves, but they are not as well–protected as Mogao Caves. You will feel it a bit shabby after seeing the Mogao Caves. People usually spend less time here.
Then we came to the Yangguan Pass. Its entrance ticket was 50RMB. This scenic spot is divided into two parts; one part is the museum and the other part is the only beacon tower in exist. The scenic spot offered a free guide service throughout our visit there and it cost us one and a half hours for a full tour here.
After that, we came to the Yumenguan Pass, whose ticket was 40RMB. Yumenguan Pass and Yangguan Pass were both the gateways to the western region on the Ancient Silk Road. We only saw a part of the city wall here. Our private car driver told us that there was once a city here, but now it is just a loess rampart.
The last destination we visited today was the famous Yadan Ghost Town. We were very lucky to have caught the last tourism bus and enjoyed the sunset here. The Yadan landform here is under protection whic means tourists are not permitted to climb or touch the sculptures here. The sunset was quite spectacular! After a good visit of the ghost town, we got on our car and arrived at the downtown of Dunhuang at about 9pm. We ate some snacks at Shazhou Night Market and then returned to our hotel.
Dunhuang Mogao Caves – Echoing-sand Mountain (Mingsha Mountain) – Crescent Lake-Lanzhou
The movie tickets we booked were for the 09:30 morning one, so we got on the charted car and left for the Mogao Caves at 08:50. We firstly saw two movies about the Mogao Caves at the Digital Center and learned the history of Mogao Caves. Then we took the sightseeing bus to visit the Mogao Caves on site. Here 20 tourists are a batch and each interpreter led 20 tourists to visit the caves one by one. Although there are more than 700 caves, only 12 of them were allowed to be seen during the off season. Tourists are not allowed to take pictures or touch anything inside the caves. We really admired those interpreters who seemed very enthusiastic about those treasure and were passionate about their work. The mural paintings’ colors inside the caves were well protected after thousands of years’ history and the sculptures were exquisitely made. It’s really hard to describe them in language. We stayed in the caves for a long time. It was already 3pm when we returned to the downtown.
After lunch, we headed to Echoing-sand Mountain and the Crescent Lake. We firstly rode camels upward the sand dunes to enjoy the full view of the desert and then slided on sand to the bottom. At last, we rode camels to the Crescent Lake. It was a pity that it was already the sunset time when we finally arrived at the lake area and didn’t get the chance to see the Crescent Lake under the blue sky. To be honest, the lake was really amazing. We just couldn’t believe its existence here in the middle of sand dunes. It is said that the lake is a drop of tear of the Echoing-sand Mountain.
It was quite late when we finally said goodbye to the Echoing-sand Mountain and the Crescent Lake. We then went to the railway station and got on the tourism train Y668 to Lanzhou.
Lanzhou – Chongqing/Mianyang
It was about 7am when we arrived at the Lanzhou Railway Station. We then took bus No. 1 and got off at Panxuanlu Xikou. From here, we got on an airport shuttle bus to the airport. We then flied to the cities we were staying separately. It was a meaningful and educational trip.