An oasis in Donhuan, China known as Crescent Lake.

An oasis in Dunhuang, China known as Crescent Lake.

The city of Donhuang, located in northwestern Gansu Province in Western China was once an important stop along the famous Silk Road. The oasis there made it an important place for traders and travelers to rest up before continuing across the vast desert.

I made my own pilgrimage there recently with my friends Robin and Peter Yin, two brothers who were exploring the area looking for flavors and inspiration for there new restaurant they were planning to open in Shanghai called Lost Heaven Silk Road. Our journey there, however, was a bit more comfortable than those who made the trek hundreds of years ago. We had the luxury of of a small bus equipped with aircon and all the water we wanted.

A camel caravan passes in front of the large sand dunes in Donhuan, China.

A camel caravan passes in front of the large sand dunes in Dunhuang, China.

The sand dunes or Dunhuang are truly impressive. Visitors from across China and around world come here to play in this oversized sandbox. Camel caravans are still a common site but their main function now is to provide tourists with sand dune tours.

A ladder in the sand helps visitors to climb the tall sand dunes at Dunhuan.

A ladder in the sand helps visitors to climb the tall sand dunes at Dunhuang.

Visitors to the Dunhuan sand dunes struggle up the mountain of sand.

Visitors to the Dunhuang sand dunes make there way up the mountain of sand.

View of the structure built along side Crescent Lake beneath Singing Sand Mountain.

View of the structure built along side Crescent Lake beneath Singing Sand Mountain.

Portrait of a camel as he waits for his client to return from climbing the sand dune.

Portrait of a camel as he waits for his client to return from climbing the sand dune.

An early morning view of the dunes.

An early morning view of the dunes.

The ascent of men, women and children up large sand dune called Singing Sand Mountain in Dunhuang.

The ascent of men, women and children up the large sand dune called Singing Sand Mountain in Dunhuang.

A mini caravan makes its way across the sand after a sunrise trek.

A mini caravan makes its way across the sand after a sunrise trek.