After another great breakfast, we climbed aboard the tour bus with the destination being Datong. The usual Beijing traffic jam greeted us, and it took about an hour to get out onto the highway. The Beijing tour hotel was well located in the city. It allowed us to get out of the city easily. This day was 1 October the Chinese National Holiday and anywhere near the centre of the city would be blocked for the yearly festivities. This is the time when all the big shots come to the city.
|Some of the power plants seen as we approached Datong.|
Our trip was uneventful and peaceful. It gave us a bit of time to become better aquainted with our fellow travellers.
Datong is a City with a population of about 1.2 million people. I was told that that Datong was at one time, the capital of the peoples known as the Tuoba. They were part of a federation of nomads known as the Turkic who united northern China around the third century AD. It seems that China was continually united through out history, only to become fragmented, with time.
The area surrounding Datong hosts numerous coal mines and power stations. Coal is King in this part of the country. It is the principal fuel used to power the huge Chinese Manufacturing machine.
We arrived at Datong around noon, and after having enjoyed a good lunch we went straight to the Yungang Grottoes.
These caves have been a main attraction for nearly 1,500 years. Now they have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is quite a distinction as it requires the site be maintained and improved inorder to promote tourism. The authorities stated that the caves are filled with more than 50,000 sculptures, bas reliefs, and paintings of Buddhist images. The most of the sculpted Buddhists are carved inside the many caves. Most are just inside the opening of the caves. They stare out at the world with their big eyes and gentle smiles. The largest Buddha is sitting, and measures about 58 feet high, while the smallest is a figure just over an inch. Many of the images are bas relief. We could photograph some of the sculptures; and, some were suppose to be off limits to the camera, however, many visitors disregarded the no photographs signs. The guards had a difficult time trying to control the crowds from using thier cameras.
|One of the 51,000 Buddas|
|The largest Budda|
|Margaret the brave one. First to try the brush and ink.|
|Helen really in action.|
As the dinner came to a close, the local Chinese artists brought out the rice paper, brushes and ink. Everyone was invited to take a turn. At first people were a bit shy about taking up the brush. It was a bit like action painting, in front of an audience. It only took a few brave artists to start the action. Soon everyone was coming forward to show their stuff.
|Camilla in deep thought|
|One of the restaurant patrons wishing us farwell.|
Photo by: Greg Tsontakis-Mally
The evening continued to progress until it was time to leave. The etiquette in China is still followed. When the host leaves the dinner, the celebrations are over. We all left happy, and as we descended from the second floor dinning rooms everyone on the first floor salon waved good bye. Once again, we climbed our waiting bus and returned to the hotel. I did not go straight to my room. I continued my quest to find a SIM card for my IPAD. I did not succeed. The walk was, however, very entertaining as it gave me a perspective on the night life around the Datong train station. I don't know, but when I was in Datong the first time, I felt is was like the wild, wild west. I felt the same this time around. It is worth the visit.