Published: November 10th 2010November 3rd 2010
The train from Pingyao to Datong was an interesting experience. The train arrived at the station in Pingyao and only stopped for 3 minutes so everyone (us included) rushed onto the train at once. The compartment was completely full, standing room only. Carrying our heavy packs, it was a bit of a challenge to get to the other end of the compartment which is where our seats were. Finding a space on the overhead racks for our bags was another challenge. But finally we settled in and after a few stops the train actually cleared out a little and things were relatively comfortable for the 7 hour journey.
We didn't have any accomodation booked when we arrived in Datong and the information we had was unfortunately out of date. Someone eventually informed us that the place we were wandering around looking for no longer exists, but we managed to find something reasonably priced near the train station after about an hour.
The next day we headed to the Yungang Caves using the public bus. After our previous cave experiences, we kept our expectations low and were pleasantly blown away by the site. More impressive than the Mogao caves near
Dunhuang, and you can actually take pictures of everything except two of the caves. Almost as impressive as the caves themselves is the brand new visitors' centre (at first thought it was a 5 star hotel) and giant park complete with a huge temple, ponds and gardens. Everything looked like it had barely been open for days.
The Hanging Monastery was really hyped by the guide books and to be honest it was a bit of a let down. The amount of money we spent to get there plus the entrance fee (even more than the Yungang caves) was not worth it (approx $60 in total, which could have paid for 2 night's accomodation in Beijing). But we made the most of it and still managed to have fun with it. Although afterwards we treated ourselves to KFC for lunch to make us feel better.
There are more photos below