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Fun in the sun

By Jules Quartly (China Daily)

10:15, July 26, 2012

In stark contrast to the grasslands north of Hohhot is the Gobi Desert's Singing Sand Ravine Tourist Scenic Spot, in Dalad banner.

An approximately two-hour drive west of the city, along the Jingzang Expressway toward Baotou, Singing Sands is an otherworldly experience - and a lot of fun.

It's a well-developed tourist destination that made it onto CCNGo.com's list of the top-40 most beautiful places to stay in China, and gets a quadruple A scenic beauty rating from the central government.

There is supposed to be the option of an overnight stay in the Desert Lotus "ecological" hotel, designed by a Japanese architect, and intended to leave the smallest environmental footprint possible. It looks great and certainly blends into the surroundings, but on our visit it was closed.

But most people take the day trip excursion, which starts with a 120 yuan ($19) entrance fee, followed by a further 220 yuan levy to experience the wonders of an adventure course.

It begins with a cable ride over a ravine and up the 100-meter tall dunes, which have a 45-degree incline. It is the gradient and crescent-shaped topography that make the dunes a natural instrument, hence the name Singing Sands.

While many visitors take the option of wearing little bootees, I recommend liberating your feet and walking in the beautifully clean sand.

We were then swept away in a "desert boat" to an area where we could take quad bike and sand buggy rides, while there were plenty of other entertainments, such as rope swings, and play areas.

Next up was a camel ride to the Art Desert Gallery and Sand Sculpture Gardens that loomed toward us like mirages; followed by a train ride to the sand surfing area. A bit like tobogganing, we were launched off the top of the dune and careened down to the bottom.

I liked the Lunar Lander-type toilets but not the constant public service announcements, as I would have preferred to hear the song of the sands instead.

The only thing missing was a pool.

And while the price was fairly steep, it was certainly worth it.

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