The Dunes of Dunhuang

Photo © Bob Krist

Marco Polo and other Silk Road travelers may have used camels in the past, but this is the new China. Now, visitors to the Mingsha Dunes in Dunhuang can get around on camel, dune buggies, or even an ultra-light aircraft (seen in the above picture.  D90, 70-300mm VR, Vivid, Daylight WB).

Yes, this far west outpost in the Gobi Desert, home to the famous Mogao Caves of Buddhist art and carvings (no photos allowed inside, thank you very much!), is another place, like Lijiang, that is catering to the surging domestic tourist business.

It’s also the first place where we’ve seen sun and blue skies since….well, since I don’t know when. What is that yellow orb in the sky? It appears to emit heat and light….strange.

Our hotel is really nice and the staff is super attentive and well trained. This is not the China I knew. But there’s still some polishing to be done. When I checked into my room, there was a charming handwritten note in English from the maid, welcoming me and ending with this: “I look forward to severing you in the next few days.”


I’m sure she meant “serving you.” (But just in case she didn’t, remind me to use the deadbolt in my door while I’m here).

And hit the jump for some more pix….

Photo © Bob Krist
Photo © Bob Krist

Above. more dunes (see the little hikers?) and an abandoned cart near a museum complex. Below, the Mogao Caves entrance, and our intrepid crew on a camel safari through the Mingsha Dunes. D90, 12-24mm (cart), 16-85mmVR (cave front) and 70-300mm VR lenses (all others). Vivid JPeg. SinghRay LB Color Combo Polarizer on cart and cave front pix.

Next stop: Mongolia and more of the northern Gobi Desert. Provided of course, that the sandstorm that hit us this morning clears and the plane can land! We’re three hours delayed so far and no end to the storm in sight.

Some hazards of Silk Road travel, including sandstorms, can foil modern travelers just the way they did back in Marco Polo’s day. I’ll keep you posted….

Photo © Bob Krist
Photo © Bob Krist

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. WOW, love the super-graphic quality of the 1st pic! Also glad to see that the weather gods have finally smiled upon you, if ever so briefly….

  2. great photos! It’s always amazing to see photos from parts of the world that I have never been to since it serves as a reminder of how big this world actually is.

    Good choice by the way on the deadbolt option, you can never be too safe! 🙂

  3. Bob, That first shot looked awfully like Namibia. For a minute I thought you were lost.
    Hope things are well.

  4. Bob,

    That top shot is just killer! Absolutely beautiful.

    Of course, it’s a bitter/sweet thing. For me it’s difficult to see these images and not think about the desertification that is occurring in China… and being so well documented by Sean Gallagher. The combination of industry, destructive farming practices and climate change is really doing a number out there, isn’t it?

    Don’t mean to be a bummer… just that there’s lots of work to be done.

    I do love the images, though!


    1. Mike: These dunes have been here from time immemorial, so they are not results of desertification, although that is a shame. Bob

  5. Have you more of those gorgeous photos? We are going there at the end of May

  6. photos are wonderful. Anymore? We will visit in June. Thanks

  7. Hi Bob,

    Gorgeous pictures as usual. Is dust in the desert much of a deterrent to changing lenses? Do you have to remove lots of dust bunnies in post?



    1. No time to do post on this trip, Andrew. It’s out of the camera jpegs or it’s nothing. I haven’t been in the same room more than three nights in a row for the last six weeks! We are moving superfast. So far, the dust seems not to be a problem. Bob

  8. Hi Bob, just wanted to say excellent pics. I really enjoy your work, it keeps me inspired. Looking forward to seeing you at the Moore Art Institute in Philly on May23rd.

  9. Those dunes are unreal !! I would keep that dead bolt locked too if I were you – Ha ha
    Love the images.

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