Hanging Out in Datong

Gallery

This is the third and fourth day of our fourteen-day adventure. Thank you for taking time to read. To read about our first day, click here, and about our second day, here.

A Little Something About Datong (大同)

The city Datong was assigned to me. According to my research, Datong is a city not far from inner Mongolia, in the northern part of Shanxi (山西) province. It was the capital of the Northern Wei dynasty (北魏朝) from 398 to 494 AD.

Today, Datong is known across China as the “Coal City”, and travel information across the net advice us to bring face mask and shades just in case the pollution becomes unbearable, or when there will be a sand storm.

Needless to say, Dalvin and I began imagining that we were visiting District 12 (I was Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games, and he, Peeta Mellark  Too bad I didn’t foresee this, or else I would have learned how to braid my hair Katniss style prior to the trip.

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Sorry for the digression. Datong, for all appearances, looked like a humble town. However, I felt that the people of Datong were the type of rich Chinese who do not flaunt their wealth. Tourists flock here, not to enjoy the city, but to use it as a place to rest when visiting the famous sites near the city.

And So We Begin

We arrived at the city of Datong (大同) at 6:01am, sharp. We just had around six hours worth of rest, without changing clothes, when we begin our official Datong tour.

We just woke up :)

We just woke up 🙂

It was so cold in that city, that our breath was fogging up. Outside the terminal, our driver, Mr. Gu (古) fetched us holding a paper with ‘SHANDA’ written on it. He drove us to a nearby hotel, to allow us to freshen up a bit, and then to a convenience store to get snacks for us to eat.

A big van for the four of us!

A big van for the four of us!

Convenient store beside breakfast takeout place

Convenience store beside breakfast takeout place

view from the van enroute to our first destination

View from the van en route to our first destination

Hengshan (恒山)

We arrived at this majestic mountain before 8am. There was no one in the ticket office so we had to wait a while. The cable car service going up the mountain was still closed, so Mr. Gu drove us up the mountain midway, and encouraged us to hike all the way up, instead of waiting for the cable car.

the start of our hike from midway

The start of our hike from midway

It was strenuous.  The air was so thin, and our faces were freezing. We didn’t walk together, because we each had our own agenda.

Fil, taking in the majestic view

Fil, taking in the majestic view

Stll so far from the top

Stll so far from the top

Fil, the potographer

Fil, the potographer

Dalvin, surging ahead of me

Dalvin, surging ahead of me

better toilets near the top of the mountain (rather than the ones at the bottom)

Better toilets near the top of the mountain (compared to the ones at the bottom)

There were only a few people in the mountain, mostly locals. They probably thought we were some crazy tourists who love hiking in cold weather.

George and Dalvin discussing if we would still go up there or simply hike back down to the cable car station.

George and Dalvin discussing if we would still go up there or simply hike back down to the cable car station.

We decided to forge on, and once we reached the top temple, we found this on the ground... melted ice! It was that cold :)

We decided to forge on, and once we reached the top temple, we found this on the ground… melted ice! It was that cold 🙂

view from the top

View from the top

entrance to an even higher ground

Entrance to even higher ground

The road up the highest part of the mountain (which we didn't bother to climb)

The road up the highest part of the mountain (which I didn’t bother to climb)

Asked Fil to use his nicer camera to take my picture

Asked Fil to use his nicer camera to take my picture

Instead of going all the way up.... :P

Instead of going all the way up…. 😛

After around 90 minutes hike, we finally reached our end point. We then followed the signs to the cable car, which has already opened.

Who's afraid of heights?

Who’s afraid of heights?

Hanging Temple (悬空寺)

We then proceeded to Hanging Temple. We had fun here! The 1400 year-old place was an architectural wonder. Wooden crossbeams were inserted into the rocky mountain to build the foundation for this temple. The toothpick-like struts visible to us were merely there to assure visitors of their safety, and were only added 600 years ago. Three religions/philosophies were featured in this temple: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

we arrived noon time, not much tourists

We arrived at noon, not much tourists

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.05.45April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.05.02

crossing the hanging bridge to get to the hanging temple :P

Crossing the hanging bridge to get to the hanging temple 😛

the entrance to the temple

The entrance to the temple

steep stairs

Steep stairs

again, each of us touring at our own pace

Again, each of us touring at our own pace

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.05.32

a quick get together

A quick get together

don't look downnnnnn!

Don’t look downnnnnn!

Dalvin remained planted here while we surged on

Dalvin remained planted here while we moved on

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.05.37 April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.05.38

can you shoot your coins on the mouth of that dragon?

Can you shoot your coins into the mouth of that dragon?

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.05.41

Tourists arriving where we were about to leave

Tourists arriving when we were about to leave

A Short Break

We went back to Datong City for a quick lunch. Mr. Gu ordered local Datong cuisine specialties for us to try. It was a feast! We kept on saying “bula” (不辣), meaning not spicy, but the dishes were somehow still spicy. I wonder how they would taste like if we didn’t say “bula?”

Restaurant front

Restaurant front

Eating spicy

Eating spicy “bula” food

Mr. Gu brought us to China Mobile branch, and they also wouldn’t sell us a local sim. The girl in the counter had an old sim, but she was willing to sell it only for cny 185 (php1300) and we deemed it too expensive and risky, so Fil said no. Now, if the running joke about me was “Cherry Blossom”, Fil’s was “sim card” ha, ha!

walking distance from the restaurant

walking distance from the restaurant

Yungang Grottoes (云冈石窟)

We arrived at our second UNESCO heritage site in our trip. This again, was a relic of the northern Wei Dynasty from year 450. The area was excavated along Wuzhou (梧州) Mountain, extending 1 kilometer. It had 53 caves and over 51,000 stone statues.

view from parking lot to the park gate

View from parking lot to the park gate

from the park gate to the ticket building

From the park gate to the ticket building

inside the hotel-like ticket building

Inside the hotel-like ticket building

It was my first time to see this UNESCO letter!

It was my first time to see this UNESCO letter!

Posing with Mr. Gu while waiting for George to buy the tickets.

Posing with Mr. Gu while waiting for George to buy the tickets.

finally, entrance to the real site.

Finally, entrance to the real site.

happy Dalvin holding up his ticket for me

Happy Dalvin holding up his ticket for me

modern statue of tan yao (昙曜), the monk who began the construction of this site from the year 450.

Modern statue of tan yao (昙曜), the monk who began the construction of this site from the year 450.

modern pillars accenting the walkway

Modern pillars accenting the walkway

artistic circular plaza with a golden tree on its center. clearly a modern addition.

Artistic circular plaza with a golden tree at its center. Clearly a modern addition.

we opted to pay cny10 per person to take this vehicle to and from the caves.

We opted to pay cny10 per person to take this vehicle to and from the caves.

This was in China?

This was in China?

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.06.26-1

This was NOT a cherry blossom tree -- it was an apricot blossom tree!

This was NOT a cherry blossom tree — it was an apricot blossom tree!

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.06.28

As we viewed the different types of Buddhas, I couldn’t help but notice that Buddhism was not really a Chinese thing – It actually came from India. So we discovered that different Buddha shapes and styles – fat ones, thin ones, ones that looked like their emperors, small-eyed, etc. April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.06.31 April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.06.33 April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.06.34

vendors as we exit the site. Not too expensive.

Vendors as we exited the site. Not too expensive.

When I was still planning the itinerary, I had a dilemma. How could I reconcile my being a Christian with visiting and promoting sites like these? It was settled when I came upon Acts 14:16-17 in my Bible reading:

Acts 14:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

For some reason, that verse (though out of context) allowed me to enjoy myself in the majestic Yungang Grottoes and other religious sites throughout our tour, without compromising my faith.

Weidu International Hotel

We left Yungang around 5pm . Mr Gu drove us to our hotel, apparently, our Php2,500 per room could already book a five star room in Datong. It was the nicest hotel we stayed at in our entire trip. We even managed to ask for free breakfasts, as well as late checkout.

majestic lobby

Majestic lobby

two door bathroom. too bad I couldn't use the tub because of my allergies

Two door bathroom. Too bad I couldn’t use the tub because of my allergies

our big room!

Our big room!

A Rest Day

The next day, we took advantage of the late checkout, and left hotel 2pm. We decided to explore the malls in separately. Fil opted to hang out in a coffee shop, Dalvin and George went exploring together, and I ventured out alone.

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.06.48

wanda!

Wanda!

walking aimlessly led me here

Walking aimlessly led me here

hidden underground shopping are for locals

Hidden underground shopping are for locals, including the Chinese Walmart

supermarket selling bread by grams

Supermarket selling bread by the gram

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.06.58 April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.07.01

first time to see Ponkan with their stem still there!

First time to see Ponkan with their stem still there!

When it was time to go, we collected our things from the hotel, and took a cab to the train station. To our delight, they had a special waiting area for soft sleeper passengers! We really appreciated it after our Beijing train experience.

another blurry pic outside the terminal

Another blurry pic outside the terminal

the nice train lounge of Datong

The nice train lounge of Datong

This time, riding and sleeping on the train was second nature to us. We knew our places, where the luggage should go, our winding down routines. The conductor when morning arrived was kinder and more polite.

happy campers

happy campers

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.07.16

April 21, 20152015-04-21 12.07.19

Arrival at Pingyao station, 6:07am sharp!

Our next destination: Ping Yao Ancient City

For Datong tour, contact Jonathan http://www.pingyaotravelguide.com/

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3 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Animals in Pingyao | Shanda's Happy Deals

  2. Pingback: Five-City China Trip: Prologue | Shanda's Happy Deals

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