Location: Places >> Central Asia >> China
Login for full access to Couchsurfing Groups. Not a member yet? Join our community!

Dunhuang, China - June/July 2013
Posted November 27th, 2012 - 2:00 pm by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)
Hi everyone!

I will be visiting families in Hong Kong summer of 2013 and are thinking of spending a week or so in China. So I´m thinking of Dunhuang and the Mogao Grottoes and would like some advice on the planning of the trip.

I would like to go by train/bus.
Would it be best to take a plane from HK to China first or just cross the border by train/bus already?

And what are the regulations considering visa and other documents? I do have a norwegian passport and HK citizenship ID-card. Which one would be most convenient for me?

I will be thankful to any tips or good websites you give me :)

Posted November 27th, 2012 - 2:48 pm by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
I was in Dunhuang like 2 weeks ago. Dunhuang seems very remote when coming from HK/Shenzhen.

There train from Shenzhen to Xian seems rather fast - G822 12 stops 09:15 - 18:35

but from Xian to Dunhuang it would take 22:37 hrs (http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/display.asp?tp=1&to1=Dunhuang&from1=Xian)

Bus for that distance seems like pure torture to me ;-)

You also have to keep in mind that during the summer months train tickets can be hard to come by unless you can wait or travel without a seat reservation, which would be torture again from my POV.

If you only have a week, I would consider flying ... but hey

As for your visa, I would think that either should work, perhaps I'd incline more towards the HK-ID card if that entitles you to get a Chinese visa. But others might know more about that.

In general, I find it difficult to predict anything when it comes to a Chinese visa as these rules seem to almost constantly change also according to the relation a country has with China. Recently, it seems that French citizens had a harder time getting a visa and I don't know whether that still derives from that incident just before the Olympic Games in 2008 or any new developments. I also know that citizens from my country obviously are not getting any permit to go to Tibet until March 2013 because some of our over-eager politicians were in the front line to shake hands with the DL during his recent visit.

However, in HK you can also go through an agency and they would know best as it is their daily business. Might cost a little bit more but certainly worth not having to stand in line, answer whatever questions, etc.

Good luck

Posted November 27th, 2012 - 3:46 pm from Kowloon West, China
This member has chosen to allow only Couchsurfing members to see their group posts. To see this full converstion, sign up or log in.

Posted November 27th, 2012 - 11:46 pm by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)
Hey Gus,

Luckily my 回鄉證 does not expire before 2020 ;) I was just not sure if that permit would get me everywhere in China or would a foreign China visa be easier for me to travel in more rural places in China.

Like Walter said, from HK really seems like a big project for one week. Aren´t you the moderator of the Rural Couchsurfing-China group? Any other good suggestions of somewhere rural that is closer to HK? I´m still in the early phase of my planning so nothing is really decided yet :)

Posted November 28th, 2012 - 1:54 am from Kowloon West, China
This member has chosen to allow only Couchsurfing members to see their group posts. To see this full converstion, sign up or log in.

Posted November 28th, 2012 - 2:27 am from Kowloon West, China
This member has chosen to allow only Couchsurfing members to see their group posts. To see this full converstion, sign up or log in.

Posted November 28th, 2012 - 7:19 pm by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)
I would most prefere to visit Dunhuang too!

Thank you both for some great advice and websites!

The rough plan now is to:

- Go by plane between HK and XiAn
- Train from XiAn to DunHuang
- Train from DunHuang back to XiAn and plane to HK
Plane from DunHuang to Hangzhou and then train to Shenzhen just for the sake of variation of sceneary

Does this sound like a manageable plan to you guys? :)

Posted November 29th, 2012 - 1:38 am from Kowloon West, China
This member has chosen to allow only Couchsurfing members to see their group posts. To see this full converstion, sign up or log in.

Posted November 27th, 2012 - 11:40 pm by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)
Thank you Walter for the information! Seems like I can already book train tickets now from website you gave me if I would like to?

Ok, so it seems like the most direct connection to Dunhuang is either through Lanzhou or Xi´an.

Right now I´m thinking of maybe travel by flight one way and train the other.

Hehe, I was worrying about getting chinese visa with norwegian passport as well since Norway is responsible for appointing Nobel Peace Price winner...

Posted November 28th, 2012 - 5:09 am by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
I have never booked train tickets online. Seems the booking/delivery fee is 150 RMB.

I would fly up and train/bus back, so in case that doesn't work out, you can revert to plane again.

The cheapest flights are usually to/from BJ - check elong.net or similar. And flying from Shenzhen might be cheaper than from HK.

OMG, that was 4 yrs ago and in the meantime the "good" guy got it - so, no tit for tat ...

Posted November 29th, 2012 - 6:38 am by from London, England (Permalink)
My wife & I visited the Mogao Caves 2 years ago. We do not speak enough Mandarin to join a Chinese group, so we were taken by an English speaking guide. The caves are locked and we were taken to 12 caves only. We were told by the guide that this was because the cave paintings are very fragile & susceptible to damage by especially humidity from too many tourists - so access is limited. However, if you understand Mandarin, you can join a Chinese group and then tag along different groups as they walk by. A couple who we met on the train did this and they were able to see a lot more than 12 caves!

By the way, if you have the time, try visit Jiayuguan as well - quite touristy but full of history...

Posted November 29th, 2012 - 11:32 am by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
When I was there a few weeks ago, it was pretty much the same. It was there after Nov. 1, so the entrance fee was lower and only 100 RMB versus the usual 180, I think. That fee includes the guide but one cannot go without guide. I had the pleasure of having a private tour as I was the only laowei that day but there were not too many Chinese visitors either.

The guide told me that some 800,000 people visit DH yearly, so expect quite a crowd during the warmer months. I did not count the caves I saw but 12 sounds about right. The famous ones are always included but obviously they swap some of the others. There is the option to visit additional caves but for a steep price.

Inside the cave area, not just the caves itself, no photography is allowed and cameras have to be checked before passing the gate. The surrounding park as well as the museum are free of charge and you can take photos there.

There is a shuttle bus from the city which costs like 8 RMB but the train station is like halfway between the city of DH and the caves and there is little else than the train station, so you might want to find a hotel in the city and then use the bus to go to the site itself. Coming back is the same price. Buses usually leave when full which should not take to long.

I mean the caves are interesting and spectacular and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but unless you have a particular interest, I would add a few things along the way to visit and see to kind of justify the trip. Both Xian and Lanzhou have well-known sites and Jiayuguan is where the Great Wall ends and definitely worth a stop. When I was there most of the those fun attractions were already closed which I was actually glad about, so it was I, the towers, the wall and a few camels. In summer it is probably a bouncing place.

Posted November 29th, 2012 - 7:47 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
The train journey from Lanzhou to Dunhuang is quite interesting if you have time & into history/literature. It goes along the 'Hexi corridor' between desert on one side & very high mountains on the other - famous for being the main thoroughfare for trade and also invasion. The whole area is also where 'Journey to the West' is based upon. I was lucky enough to have a couple who were teachers point out various landmarks e.g. Fire or Flame Mountain...

If you read up on that area before you go, it will be an unforgettable trip.

Just one more thing - I tried to go to the end of the Ming Great wall - a place that I have seen in documentaries - it overlooks a deep gorge with mountains on the far side. A proper defensive wall but now quite eroded. Unfortunately my communication skills were not good enough for me to explain what I wanted to see and i was taken to what looked like a brand new wall that ended on top of a hill... obviously for show because any invaders would have simply walked round it...

Posted November 29th, 2012 - 9:45 pm by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)

If I could travel now I really would rather do it in the low season too. I am thinking of visiting Jiayuguan too since I have never seen any part of the Great Wall before. I hope there are trains that go between these two places regluary.

Maybe I can do the trip in spring and visit friend in Sg in summer instead, but that depends on work and my economy.


So you mean there will probably be daily groups that I can join?

I´m planning to take the train from XiAn so I guess I´ll be able to see some of the amazing views along the way.
Right now I most want to visit DunHuang because I saw a documentary about, and as you suggest, it is more unforgettable when you have some kind of relations to it.
I will of course do some more reading and research about the area, but I will probably have to be very picky about the stops because I don´t want to rush through it, but rather take my time to indulge what I will be experiencing. China is so big that I will have to revisit it quite few times anyway :)

And any kind of book suggestions or websites are very welcomed! And I do read chinese (preferably traditional chinese) too.

Did you couchsurfed or booked into a hotel/hostel?

Posted November 30th, 2012 - 5:52 am by from London, England (Permalink)
It was July 2 years ago that we visited - so peak time. There are no set times for groups to set out - it's whenever there are enough people. When we visited, there were several Chinese speaking groups out at the same time & their guides were making sure that they did not visit the same caves at the same time to avoid congestion & to spread out any 'wear & tear'. There seems to be hundreds of caves that have been excavated and many more that haven't. As Walter has already reported, visitors are not allowed to wander around on their own.

As for info - start with Wikepedia ;-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexi_Corridor and take it from there.

I mentioned 'Journey to the West' but I must admit that although I bought the book in 1997, I have never been able to read it through from start to end although I have tried a few times! However, the TV series 'Monkey' is based on it and a lot more enjoyable!

Gansu province also is the setting for some of the events in 'Romance of the Three kingdoms'. I have only read the illustrated version... Recent movie 'Red Cliff' is based on events in the book. There are temples dedicated to Guan Yu in many Overseas Chinese settlements + a yearly celebration on his birthday (22nd day of the 6th month in the lunar calendar, I think) when noodles are dished out freely. I believe that all HK Police stations have a shrine dedicated to him. Also, apart from the various battles that took place in Gansu during that period, I was told that during those very unsettled times, the Li Clan resettled in Longxi (you can visit this on a DIY day trip from Lanzhou), an area south of Lanzhou - a few centuries later they went on to found the Tang Dynasty. I believe that the Li clan is the most numerous in China. They consider Longxi to be their ancestral home and there are 'Longxi Temples' all over the world where there are settled Li clan members.

John Man's 'Genghis Khan' is also a very good read and parts of it refer to the Mongol invasion of China & about the now defunct Xi Xia (Tangut) Kingdom

Hope that the above has kept your interest going and not totally extinguished it! ;-)


Posted November 30th, 2012 - 6:04 am by from London, England (Permalink)
The only info I have been able to retrieve is the name & phone number of an 8 passenger peoples' carrier.
Mr Li Juntao - 139 9370 3736.

We found him very helpful and reasonable. He drove us to several hotels & helped us find a very reasonably priced hotel after the one we had originally booked with, refused to take us claiming that they were not allowed to take in foreigners. He does not speak English btw. I am sorry but I am unable to find any info on the hotel we stayed at.

Posted December 2nd, 2012 - 1:31 am by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)
Thanks for the tips and the wiki-link!

The Journey to the West tv-series made in HK 1996 and 1998 are one of mye favorites tv-series, and I just downloaded a tv-series about the romance of three kingdoms which consist of about 90+ episodes and are told to have been used during lectures by some professors.
And I also have a documentary about train-traveling in China.

So I have plenty of material to start with, I just need to get started ;)

Posted December 2nd, 2012 - 3:54 am by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
Do you or does anyone have any links for the mentioned Journey to the West HK TV series as well as for the Romance of Three Kingdoms series?

I can also add the following with dl-links:

1. The Silk Road: A New History by Valerie Hansen

was recommended to me by another CSer
or via amazon, I guess

2. NHK - Silk Road IV: Central and West Asia (2007)


A 5-part documentary series on the Silk Road. I don't know where you could purchase it though.

Posted December 3rd, 2012 - 9:30 pm by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)
I used asiatorrents.me and tvboxnow.com (in chinese) to download most of the asian entertainments.

Journey to the West 1996 (TVB):

Journey to the West 1998 (TVB):
- the second link is the 1998 one, but these don´t have eng sub

Romance of three kingdom:

(I did not dl this from this forum but they are usually fine)

Posted December 7th, 2012 - 1:19 am by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
Thanks for the links.

As for hotel, I normally use elong.net for hotel info or reservations in China. I was a bit surprised to read that there were hotels in Dunhuang (or Gansu) which were not licensed for foreigners - I did encounter this just now in Xinjiang but otherwise nowhere else in Mainland China.

Getting a hotelroom has hardly ever been a problem during all my travels in China but getting hold of train tickets can be another story. Despite it not being a travel season now, I had a hard time getting train tickets now back from Korla to Hami/Kumul and from Hami/Kumul back to Beijing.

I agree that the surrounding area and the entrance free museum in particular are a great place to visit.

Posted December 4th, 2012 - 3:38 am by from London, England (Permalink)
Just found the details for the hotel we finally stayed in Dunhuang 2 years ago in summer. Guanyuan Hotel, 23 Mingshan Road, 0937 885 1488. At that time it was 140RMB per night per double or twin room - ensuite & I think that breakfast was included.

Posted December 5th, 2012 - 1:49 am from Invercargill, New Zealand
This member has chosen to allow only Couchsurfing members to see their group posts. To see this full converstion, sign up or log in.

Posted December 6th, 2012 - 10:57 pm by from Oslo, Norway (Permalink)
Yeah, I saw a documentary from HK saying that China has the worst collection of manuscripts from DanHuang compared to the other countries because China did not appreciate antiques at the time these valuable treasures were first found. So when we realized the values of it it was too late because all was taken.

I am planning to stay there an extra day (if I can) to just walk around too :)

Thank you RLMC for the hotel information :)

Post removed.
Posted December 7th, 2012 - 7:58 pm by from Invercargill, New Zealand (Permalink)
This post has been removed by the user.

Deleted Post