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Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong
July 17th 2006
Published: July 24th 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY

Our only fear on our trip to Datong is that we had to buy return train tickets back to Beijing for the next day, and we couldn't do it until we were in Datong. We were afraid that the train would be sold out or we'd have difficulties purchasing the tickets due to the language barrier. We leave the platform and have to lug our huge rollie bags down a huge flight of steps and them back up three more! By the time I got to the top into the lobby, Brian had been approached by an English speaking CITS travel agent. He was able to book our soft sleeper return train tickets with the greatest of ease. He also booked us on the tour that brought us to see the Yungong Grottos and the Hanging Monastery. He put us in the cab to our hotel and told us to be in the hotel lobby at 9:00am to meet our tour guide. We were so psyched! How easy was that. We got to the hotel and freshened up and ate breakfast before we met our guide. We hoped a guide actually showed up or else we had been scammed for both the train tickets and the tour! Luckly right on the dot, our guide pulled into the driveway.

We got in the cab thinking we were on our way to meet the bus, but it ended up that the bus was full and we got to ride in the cab the whole day. We met a very nice girl named Judy from Belgium in our cab. Judy is a translator that could speak English, French, and Russian as well as a English teacher to Chinese kids in China on holiday for a month. We started our trip moving at a normal speed through the city streets of Datong, and by the time we got to the countryside we slowed down to 25 miles per hour. The driver was veering into the middle divinding line and kept yawning like he was nodding off. Judy turns to us from the front seat giving us strange looks. She comments on the slow driving in English (the driver didn't speak any English). We are both baffled and scared at this point. The next time we vear to the center of the 2 way country highway, Brian taps the driver on the shoulder to wake him up. Judy asks him in what little Chinese she's learned why he was driving so slowly. He said that the tour bus was behind is with the rest of our group and we were driving slow to let them catch up. We continue to move at a snails pace, watching all the cars zoom by us at what looks like 65 miles per hour.

We finally meet up with our bus at this little 100 year old village at the side of the road that they stopped at to let us take pictures and to let us get mobbed by a bunch of little kids selling trinkets. By this time we were only a few minutes away from the Hanging Monastery. We got to walk up the stairs and ladders right into the monastery. They built it (1000 years ago) into a cliffside 100 meters off the ground to keep it from flooding on the ground below. It is now only 50 meters off the ground. The people that built it climbed the mountain from the backside and lowered themselves off the cliff do drill holes into the side of the cliff to insert the beams that hold the monastery up. It was an impressive sight. (pictures to follow)

We then got back into the car for the 2.5 hour drive to the Yungong Grottos. These are caves with 51,000 carved buddas in them. These were awsome. I have a million pictures that speak for themselves. I will post them later.

When we returned back to the city we went to dinner with Judy. We found a restaurant recommended by our Lonely Planet book and took a cab there. It turns out that that restaurant is no longer in business, so we randonly pick a restaurant that was across the street. They don't speak a lick of English in this joint! Great!!! The menu is also all in Chinese. We stumbled thru ordering a couple items by pointing at pictures and then I open my Mandarin phrasebook and they start pointing to the items they have on their menu that are listed in the book. We had hot and sour soup...that was NOTHING like what ours tastes like in the Bay Area. It tasted like peppery water! We added some muchrooms to it from our chicken with mushrooms and it improved that flavor 10 fold. We also had a plate of stir fried vegetable...not sure what kind, but it was good. Brian and Judy had a few different types of the local beer and I had a good ole Coca Cola! A chinese man came from another table with a glass of beer in his hand. His friends dared him to come have a drink with the American's. He came over and talked to us a little in broken English that he learned in school 10 years ago. He was pretty good, since we were able to understand him! We toasted and they pounded their beers. Brian had to buy another bottle and return the favor at their table before we departed for the evening. We walked back to our hotel that was only a few blocks away. Tomorrow was the noon train back to Beijing and then the night train to Xian.

We got in our executive soft sleeper private room on the Z train to Xian. It was NICE! It had 2 bunks with TV's at the foot of each, little reading lights, a table and chair, a closet, and a PRIVATE bathroom with a sink! This train was nicer than some of the hotels we stayed in!!! I slept well in our fancy accomodations!

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