Thursday, April 18, 2013


Today was a travel day for us, we flew this morning from Taiyuan to Datong.  Our flight was late leaving, but it was a short one on a very small jet--only 50 minutes.

Where am I, anyway?? This Eiffel Tower was spotted on our way to the airport in Taiyuan--it's actually a communication tower set on top of a building! (photo taken from the taxi window)

As we were descending into Datong, we we shocked by how bad the air quality is here.   I think it’s mostly dust, but I’m sure some of it is smog, as the Datong’s main economy is coal mining.  We were also very surprised by the size of the airport--it’s tiny!  They actually locked the exit doors from baggage claim on us, we took time to use the restrooms before exiting.  A nice airport employee came along and let us out, thank goodness!

The taxi stand was also small--a whole 3 taxis!  We seemed to be the only ones taking a taxi, most people were waiting for a bus.  With our non-existent Chinese language skills, taking a bus is a bit confusing.  For this trip I printed out in Chinese, the name, address and phone number for each of our hotels.  That has been a lifesaver! 

Our hotel check in took longer than usual, only one young man at the front desk, and he was quite thorough in copying our passports, which is required by the Chinese government.  Finally we got our rooms keys and unpacked a bit.  We’re pretty happy with our room; the view is interesting--check out the photos!

View from our window--over a large hutong neighborhood.  The front of our hotel faces a big, modern main street through Datong.

View looking the other way out our wind--notice the polluted air:

As we had the whole afternoon here, we hit the streets to find a couple of sights marked on our tourist map. We found them both, but they weren’t too interesting, so we continued on around the block to find a bank and get some cash.  

A big pagoda like building in the middle of a round a bout near our hotel

Datong city wall:

Tall pagoda on the city wall

Fast food restaurant around the corner from our hotel--I think this must be Mrs. Colonel KFC!

By now it was mid afternoon, and we both were ready for lunch.  We walked around a little, and then just picked a decent looking place, walked in and sat down.  We lucked out!  It turned out this was a “hot pot” restaurant, which I had wanted to try on this trip.  Ordering was fun!  They had two menus--one in Chinese with pictures, and one with “lost in translation English” and no pictures.  As we had noticed donkey meat on the English menu--we wanted to make SURE we didn’t point to the wrong picture!

The hot pot meal was fun and delicious.  We each ordered a different broth, which is served in a metal pot set over a big sterno flame.  We then chose a few different items to cook in the broth, such as thin sliced beef, Chinese cabbage, yams, mushrooms and noodles.   I’m sure it was very obvious to the sweet young waitresses that we had no idea what we were doing, because they couldn’t have been more helpful.  They helped us with our menu selections and took us to the “dipping sauce bar” to help us mix our sauces.  All this was accomplished with not one word of English--just lots of pantomime and smiles!  A fun part of the meal was watching our waitress stretch our hand cut noodles--it was quite a show, and they were delicious!  All this fun and a yummy, healthy meal for $22!

The goods!

Hand stretched noodles, which we cooked in the hot pot--they were really good!

When we came out of the restaurant, the wind was blowing like crazy, and I noticed that people were running and vendors were taking down their umbrellas.  Soon it was apparent that we were in the middle of a big dust storm, and it wasn’t fun!  I put my sunglasses on to help keep it out of my eyes, but my teeth were gritty, my hair is just stiff with dust--it was really something!  We saw a grocery store on our way back to the hotel, and decided to take refuge there, as we needed to buy bottled water and some fruit.  This one was in the basement of a large mall, and it was huge. We enjoyed looking at the large variety of different foods--we always look at the weird flavors of potato chips when we travel, and they have some doozies in China!  Grilled Fish Fillet,  Numbing Hot Spicy, and the super delicious sounding Spicy Dried Shredded Shrimp!  We didn’t buy any ;}

We went to the check out with our small basket of goods and 2 big bottles of water, and for some strange reason the young cashier refused to sell us the water!  We really don’t know why--she rattled off a few sentences that we didn’t understand, we just kept nodding our heads “yes”, and she kept shaking her head “no”!  So we paid for the rest of our groceries and left without the water.  David later walked back to the same store, went to a different checkout counter and had no problems at all buying two bottles of water--weird!

We braved the short walk back to our hotel, it was still windy but had calmed down a bit.  The first thing I did when we got back was wash my face, rinse out my mouth--and I’m still crunching on grit--ick!

We’re now relaxing in our room, watching the dust blow around out our window, and trying to decide if we want to go out for dinner, order room service, or just eat junk food!

(We ordered room service!)

Tomorrow is our big day in Datong!  We have a driver and guide hired for the day, we’ll be visiting the Hengsheng Hanging Temple and Yungang Grottos.  We’ll be doing some climbing for sure!

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