Blogs from Datong, Shanxi, China, Asia

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Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong January 27th 2013

Datong is a city located 300 kilometers west of Beijing with around 2 to 3 million inhabitants. At the moment there are big changes going on in Datong. In the course of a 6 billion euro project, the whole citycentre of Datong is demolished and completely rebuild, based on a Ming Dynasty Style. We didn't know about that before coming here and were amazed by the size of the construction site which is maybe comparable to the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Or even bigger??? However, the project will be finished within the next two to three years (a fractional amount compared to the Potsdamer Platz) and its target is to boost the tourist industry. Our first task, at 4.30am, was to find an accomodation because we haven't booked something in advance. After we fought our way ... read more
Yungang Grottoes
Hanging Monastery
Yungang Grottoes

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong December 16th 2012

CHINA: The Hanging Monastery & Mu Ta. Ren Cheng asked if it was OK if his wife came as well...resident of Datong but never been to the Hanging Monastery. Drove to his home to collect her...dirty austere building...rent 2,000RMB a sq mtre..."cheap"...sixth top floor...back entrance...wife at the door...nil English...please come in. White tiled floors...quite large...sparsely furnished...massive TV on the floor in the middle of the main room...couple of chairs & a tall bookcase...empty other than about 10 books/mags that he was proud to show us. I will never forget what he showed us...pulled our heartstrings. He showed us his few books...PSP computer books that showed how computers & computer chips worked...binary codes...complex maths...technical as...probably outdated. He was "studying them to get a computer"...every night he reads them...when mastered he will get one! ... read more
GINGERBREAD HOUSES GARNISHED WITH SNOW
THE HANGING MONASTERY
MU TA

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong November 17th 2012

CHINA: Yungang at minus 20 C. Midnight train from Beijing...soft sleeper...nil sleep...Italians from Milan snoring in the top bunks...like Dr Zhivago outside...icy wastes of Inner Mongolia...then into Shanxi Provence...felt like Siberia. Train pulls into Datong at 7 a.m...dark...icy...cold as...follow the Italians...then Denise & I alone in the snow...the glow of a few lights...people scurrying...fog streaming from their mouths. A sound breaks through the darkness..."Taxi?"...a face enquiring..."Yes please". Our packs grabbed and put into the boot of a taxi...doors opened...into the back...the man then disappearing. We sat in the back...and sat...other taxis pulling away...we looking at each other...where's our driver? "I know how to get him back" I said as I stepped out of the taxi. And just like that he was back...leaving his mates t... read more
LOOKING OUT
MUSICIANS
EXQUISITE DETAIL

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong November 14th 2012

We arrived in Datong by train from Beijing which was a 6 hour journey on a hard sleeper. This wasn't as bad as we thought, the seats are actually soft probably similar to that of a normal commuter train in england. A tip on trains is that you need to book them in advance either through your hostel or preferably at the train station. Once you are outside Beijing you cannot book trains easily for your onward journeys and if your planning to only stay somewhere for a few days you may not get a train, so best thing to do is go to beijing station or Beijing West station and pre-book your tickets for your next few jorneys at least - this way your likely to get the soft sleepers etc. Once we arrived in ... read more

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong October 26th 2012

Being woken up at 5am is never nice, but when it is on a night train which you have to quickly get off, you are still half asleep, disorientated and its sub zero degrees outside, its even worse. This was the start of our day in Datong! With the sun not rearing it's head for the day for at least an hour or two, the bitter temperatures and the persistant taxi drivers starting to annoy us, we had little choice other than to find a nearby 'cafe' and sit it out for a while. When we walked in, the place fell silent and we immediately had tens of eyes looking at us like we were martians but it was the only place open at that time; with no English menu avaliable and the cook/owner not happy ... read more
Sunrise at Yungang caves
Thousand Buddha cave
Inside the caves

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Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong November 20th 2011

Datong - Ancient Land of Buddhism The border crossing from Mongolia was in fact more interesting than the Russian-Chinese one. We had a lot of time and we could choose whichever option we liked. Obviously the most convenient way was to take the last leg of the Trans-Mongolian and go directly to Beijing but somehow we changed our mind after few weeks in UB. Maybe because there was almost nobody doing that or just maybe because we have heard about some nice places to visit in Inner Mongolia or Northern China. I should probably mention the enormous price difference between the train to the border and the Trans-Mongolian. I could say it is the advantage of this option that every backpacker finds very appealing ;-) The second decision was to go to Hohhot but after reading ... read more
View on the Yungang Grottoes
Hanging Monastery
Temple and the lake

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong October 8th 2011

The flight to Beijing from Seoul was uneventful. Gimpo Airport is only about 15 minutes on the airport subway line from my hostel in Seoul and the check-in and security process there was really easy. A few hours later I was landing in Beijing. Immigration and customs was easy as well - just show them the passport and visa and you are good. An airport express train took me pretty close to my hostel in Beijing. It was only a short walk from the station to the hostel, well it is supposed to be short. I ended up going in the wrong direction before realizing my mistake, but it wasn't too bad. I got to see a small part of the city and I didn't walk too far off course. The hostel - Sanlitun Youth Hostel, ... read more

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong July 21st 2011

Up early again to beat the dreaded tour groups to today's attraction; Heng Shan Hanging Monastry. Our lovely driver took us the 100+km round trip for little more than the public bus. Jutting out of the cliff on long stilts, the halls of the small monastery are built in contours of the cliff and connected with small stairways and corridors. From the top of the small rickety maze it appeared much further to the ground and Having been 'templed out' in Asia in the last few years this was a welcomed break from the usual and topped off what had been a lovely 24h experience of Datong...... read more
Hanging Monastry
Hanging Monastry
Hanging Monastry

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong July 20th 2011

After a six hour train ride north west from Beijing we arrived in Datong, a much nicer city than The China Rough Guide describes; "Gritty polluted and unattractive there would seem little reason to visit Datong". We had a beautiful evening walking along the restored city wall taking in the children playing in the streets below and the signs of destruction and development on the horizon until we realised we couldn't get off at the other end and needed something more in our stomachs than the cup noodles we had on the train. We got in a taxi and Dani asked in Chinese for him to take us somewhere good to eat in his mind this was KFC! We ended up finding what i think has been the best meal yet, meat on a stick! Yummy ... read more
Kebabs
Gate for the city wall
Inside the old city wall

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong November 13th 2010

I visited the temple in Datong on a cool brisk morning. I arrived just as the gates were opening - perfect timing. There was no-one else visiting the temple! It was more than a temple, more like a collection of temples surrounded by a high wall. A couple of things surprised me - one that there was a budda with heavy black eyebrows and a thick black beard. He actually looked rather fierce even though he was in the budda pose. Secondly, there was a temple to one of the Hindu gods just behind the main buddist temple. I can't remember which one - the hindu god with all the arms. In addition, there was a christian church just behind the temple. If I recall correctly, the cross or steeple of a christian church is supposed ... read more
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