We flew into Dunhuang this morning, after leaving the hotel at a thoroughly ungodly hour. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and relaxed for a few hours before lunch, then went out to the singing dunes (which reputedly make a humming noise when the wind blows, i.e. most of the time). There we got a good look at one of the biggest drifting-sand deserts in China, and also got to ride camels!
Riding camels turns out not to be too tricky – the only difficulty is when mounting and dismounting, because the camel kneels down and you have to grab the saddle as it lurches forward and down. Here’s one starting to kneel, below:
The hair on the hump felt furry and soft, sort of like a fluffy sheep, but without the grease. I took lots of photos of the camel herd, and will put them up on the website whenever my Internet connection (or perhaps the censors) allow. They were very cute.
At lunch, I had wound up inadvertently eating something exotic. My rule of thumb, as a whole, is not to eat anything while traveling unless you know what it is, on the grounds that it may turn out to be considerably more exotic than you were anticipating. In this particular case, it was a small dish served next to a mound of popcorn that had been coated with sugar and stuck together to make (in essence) drifting sand dunes out of Crackerjacks. No one was quite sure what it was, and I wasn’t enthused, but Mike summoned up the courage to try it, and said he liked it, so I tried it as well. It was interesting, with a chewy, gelatinous texture, and a slightly rank/gamy odor to it which I wasn’t quite sure if I liked. After we’d all eaten some, my mom flagged down a passing waitress and asked her what it was. “Camel paw,” she said. (Apparently camels don’t have hooves, but big floppy feet. Kinda cute, actually.)
So anyway, now I’ve eaten camel. I think I’d rather leave them alive and kicking; they’re just way too cute, and not nearly tasty enough to justify eating. But to each their own tastes, I suppose.
Tomorrow we’re going to a bunch of Buddhist grottoes, with ancient (and extremely extensive) murals painted all through them. THere probably won’t be pretty photos, since I think flash photography is forbidden, but I’m looking forward to it.