After the train journey that I mentioned in the previous section, we arrived at Datong station. Anyone who uses the trains regularly back home might be amazed to hear this but we arrived on time.
A lot of people got off the train and went their usual ways.
Not us though, we had booked to stay for 4 nights in Datong so that we could go and visit the hanging monasteries and the Yungang grottoes.
After that, the plan is to move on to Pingyao. Being the intrepid travellers that we now are (we’re 1 week into our planned 1 year trip), we went straight to the ticket office at the railway station to book the next tickets for our onward journey.
The next journey is approx 8 hours long. People say that you should learn from your mistakes so we decided to take that advice and book the ‘hard sleeper’ tickets. As of yet, we’re not really sure what the difference between a ‘hard sleeper’ and ‘soft sleeper’ train is apart from one being more expensive than the other.
As far as I can gather though, you get a bed and the train leaves Datong shortly before midnight so that’s 1 nights accommodation saved while we travel to the next place.
Datong itself, according to the guide books, doesn’t really have very many western visitors coming to visit. When we were walking from the train station to a local shop, we had a few locals smiling or waving and saying ‘hello’ to us as they walked past.
Some people, however, just stared at us and said nothing.
From looking at the guide books, it seems to suggest that the town is quite an industrial area and it’s main thing is coal production but the tourist sites that I mentioned before were the reason for us coming here. We weren’t there for the coal ! ! !
This time, we were slightly worse prepared than we were for finding the hotel in Beijing. We thought that the hotel was next to the railway station because that’s what tripadvisor said. However, we failed to realise that the hotel near the station wasn’t the one that we had booked into.
There is the Jihae express hotel and the Jihae business hotel. We asked the security guy at the station if he knew where the hotel was and he did. He suggested getting a taxi as it was a fair old jaunt away. He also wrote the name of the hotel and street in Mandarin and told us to give it to a taxi driver so that he could find the place, another example of local people being nice and helpful.
A taxi ride in China is not like one back home. Come to think of it, road usage isn’t anything remotely similar to what it is like back home. Although there’s lanes on the road, our driver didn’t seem overly keen on using them. He was quite happy to weave between lanes or sometimes hover over two lanes at the same time.
To be fair, it wasn’t only him, most other drivers on the road seem be able to function quite happily while driving in a similar manner.
After about a 20 minute journey, we arrived at the hotel and checked in. By that point, it was later on in the afternoon and that meant that it was time for something to eat.
We were very lucky as we found a place near the hotel that was a little cafe / restaurant type place. The menu had pictures of the dishes which was great because as well as having no understanding of the spoken language, the words are equally baffling to us.
We ordered something that looked nice on the pictures and fortunately, it tasted nice as well.
The first day in Datong, we were a bit unlucky with the weather as it rained but that never stopped us. Being Scottish, we are well used to a wee bit of rain.
We found our way to the ‘red square’ area of the city. This is an area which used to house a large amount of old style buildings. For whatever reasons, these buildings were demolished and then someone decided that replicas of them should be rebuilt.
So, the city centre has a large area of shops which operate from these new / old style buildings.
On the way there, you can also take a detour off the main street and enter into what felt like the ‘real China’. Narrow little streets with vendors selling fruits, veg etc from carts in the streets. The buildings were grouped close together and have a lot of neon lit signs to advertise whatever it is they happen to be selling.
There really isn’t a massive amount of things to do here but we are glad that we stopped by as it’s a bit off the beaten track and I think most people, when they travel, want to go and see something that’s new.