Zhang Ye China
Wu Wei China
Lanzhou China 2
Hello from the ancient Mogao Grottoes,
After loafing another five days at the Hoi Tak Hotel in Urumqi I decided to head back east. My late evening flight from Urumqi got me into Dunhuang long after dark, something I try to avoid. This time the half price 360-yuan airfare made compromise attractive.
Getting into Dunhuang so late I grabbed the first decent hotel that would accept a credit card and moved to the better $49 Grand Sun Hotel the next day. Both had lavishly dressed greeters at the entrance and carry four-star ratings. Neither deserves the rating, but this is a tourist town. It reminds me of some of the beach areas in California. The Night Market features tourist trinkets, local crafts and art. With the most unusual background music featuring such all time hits as "Happy Birthday To You," "What Child Is This" and other popular Western tunes, a Chinese ambiance got lost in the hustle. Internet access at two WongBa's convinced me privacy is restricted to the government: neither would allow Internet Explorer to restrict access to my personal data.
During my first full day I visited the area of the "singing sands" and the "world famous" Crescent Lake, said to have existed among the sand dunes for at least two thousand years. I could see people sliding down the dunes from outside the park. When I learned they wanted $10 to play in the sand I cut my visit short and headed back into town on a #3 city bus.
The next day I arranged with the hotel for a 50 RMB city tour which included the Mogao Grottoes, one of many such sites throughout central China (MAP ). Here for $12.50 plus $2.50 for an English struggling guide I visited about a dozen of the more than 500 dimly lit caves containing paintings and sculptures by ancient Buddhist monks.
Monks from many parts of the world and over a period of about a thousand years participated in the creative endeavor (ART ). So the history of the caves is a history of Buddhism as well. The different cultural styles are apparent to anyone who has spent time in several Buddhist countries.
Dunhuang itself is just another typical small Chinese city, though its HISTORY is interesting ( PhotoEssay ). Entrance to the park included admission to the Mogao Grottos Museum where reproductions of the most important caves can be viewed under adequate lighting. Photography of the cave interiors as well as the reproductions is forbidden.
After lunch we were supposed to go to something called the White Pagoda. Instead, the driver took us to the Sand Dunes Park, but drove me to the museum when I indicated I'd already been to the Dunes. The museum had the usual array of dioramas, but one room stuck out like a wolf among sheep: the Sex Room. Here on display one can see every conceivable way people pleasure themselves sexually. Not a prude by nature, the exhibit shocked me in its anatomically correct frank portrayals. Having recently completed an Internet search of Chinese Internet censorship, I couldn't believe my eyes! The government claims pornography is one of the main reasons it limits access to Internet sites. For a dollar and a quarter Museum ticket you can see illustrations and realistic 3-D portrayals of more unnatural sex acts than you could ever find on the Internet.