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Tarim basin oasis Dunhuang

Dunhuang is a refreshing oasis adorned with deciduous vegetation. Whilst most tourists come here mainly to visit the Mo Gao caves bearing paintings and statues of the Buddha and his celestial entourage, other attractions include trees, water, sand dune mountains, and camel rides to the Crescent Moon spring

It was a relief to reach the oasis of Dunhuang following a dawn to late lunchtime sojourn through desert on a rather slow train. No palms at this oasis, it is poplars that predominate, interspersed with other, less pointy, deciduous trees, gorgeous in their October foliage, especially when viewed in sunshine against a backdrop of sand dune mountains. They give me a sense of almost being back home – feeling I could be somewhere like France – just a touch different from England, but not that far away.

The majority of tourist attractions are a fair distance from the town, but the West Thousand Buddha caves are only half an hour or so out on a public bus. Here I enjoy the scenery, the refreshing shade of the trees and the birdsong, but give a miss to a torch-lit tour viewing the paintings of Buddha in the caves.


Much more to my taste is the majesty of scenery, the towering dunes a few miles south of the town, and the jewel in their midst – the ‘Miraculous Pool’ – a crescent-shaped lake formed by the spring. Camels and rides for tourists add to the fun.
Below is a slideshow of fourteen photos of the area:

No train west out of Dunhuang, so it is a few hours on a bus to Hami. Next day sees a bus to Turfan, then another to Urumchi, where an overnight train across the Dzungarian basin completes my trek to the far western edge of China.