Indiana Jones

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My friend Steven from Canada had come to the motherland, so he decided to stop by for a visit:

Steven Li came by to see us in Dunhuang

We had a good time checking out the Mogao Grottoes together:

Mogao Grottoes

I had actually been to this place before in the summer of 2006:

Mogao Grottoes in 2006

What a strange feeling.

…I remember back in 2004, when I was enrolled in China Studies at the University of Munich, I had a professor who talked about this place once. It was during a lecture about Buddhist art:

“The pictures you’re looking at are from a place called Mogao Grottoes in Western China” he said, “extremely interesting stuff.” Then he slowly walked across the room to point out something on the map: “There are several excavations in an ancient cave complex out here in the desert.” Then he went on to say something about the dry climate that had helped preserve hundreds of murals and statues, some more than 1500 years old, everything extremely interesting

There we were in Germany…

Munich in 2005

…talking about things that were so far away.

But I was already off daydreaming: excavations in the desert? I looked at the map – it sure seemed like those Mogao Grottoes were out in the middle of nowhere.

I tried imagining our professor in a leather jacket with a hat and a bullwhip. He already was an archeologist alright, but now he needed to look like one too.

“Sir, have you ever been to those caves?” a voice asked, and I thought all of us students were probably thinking the same thing:

Sandstorms, scorpions, snakes!

Cursed mummies!

The Temple of Doom!

I think there was a moment of silence before our professor answered: “yes,” he said, and then he smiled, “I’ve been there.”

Awesome… I thought.

And I made a note in my mind that those mysterious Mogao Grottoes were among the places I had to visit if I ever got out of here:

winter in Munich in 2005

Sometimes reality can be pretty surprising though:

Dunhuang in 2006

These two shots are from back in 2006, when I first came to the caves and found them a bit different from my imagination:

umbrellas in 2006

Picture my professor in shorts and sandals, with a pair of shades and a camera dangling around his neck.

“I’ve been there.”

The smile suddenly made much more sense.

Today, everything was still the same around this major tourist attraction, except for some Olympic decorations:

Olympic mascot

No cameras were allowed inside the caves, so I can only show you some outside shots:

structures near the Mogao Grottoes

When it comes to tourists, the tourist in me reacts just like any other tourist: I don’t like tourists.

I’m not making any sense?

Well, of course we’re all tourists. But just like everybody else, I feel that I am somewhat different from the rest, and I certainly don’t appreciate them standing around in my pictures:

sun hat

Because they’re just tourists.

Steven treated us to a great dinner, and then we went to see the beautiful dunes right outside our window (pull back the curtains) – Crescent Moon Spring 月牙泉:

desert near Dunhuang

Now this place is mainly about sand, but there is a whole local industry built around it, including the rental of weird-looking boots:

orange boot covers

There were also camel-rides, 4×4 rentals, sand-surfing, plane rides, souvenir shops, and a whole spa area.

We didn’t mess with all that stuff though:

Robo on dune

It was just us and the sand:

Robo looking over the Crescent Moon Spring

A good day.

Robozwerg says:

“I want to be an archeologist when I grow up. Or an astronaut.”

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