Datong Trip Report (August 2012)
Replies: 1 - Last Post: Aug 8, 2012 12:51 AM Last Post By: teeanni
Aug 8, 2012 12:42 AM
Datong Trip Report (August 2012)I found it to be very helpful to me to read about other people's experiences in their trip reports, so I wanted to add mine to the collection. We took a bus to get from Beijing to Datong. The owner of the B&B where we stayed in Beijing told me that a reservation was not necessary, so we just showed up at the bus station after spending the morning visiting the Temple of Heaven, doing some short shopping across the street at the Pearl Market, and having a quick lunch. It was a Friday so I was worried that we may have to wait a long time or the tickets would sell out due to weekend travelers, but it really was not the case. We arrived at the bus station at 2:00pm and got a ticket for the next departure, which was at 2:40pm departure. Currently the buses seem to run about every hour until 6:00pm. I am not sure of the earliest departure (maybe 7:00am). Cost is 133 per ticket, which is more expensive than the train. I did not realize that until later. I suppose the benefit of the bus is that it gives you a more flexible schedule.
We were told the bus would take 4.5 hours, but it took 5.5 hours, stopping one time on the way at a rest stop for about 10 minutes. The bus was fine; the seats were thinly padded and upholstered (although it was still not a particularly comfortable seat, but it was fine for a short trip). A TV at the front was showing some really bad Chinese movies. The driver kept smoking, but no one else on the bus did. The man sitting in front of me was reading a medical book in English, so I asked him if he knew of the hotel I'd booked and he did. He was a neurosurgeon and a resident of Datong but had worked in Florida (USA) for a few years. He said he'd help me get a taxi to the hotel. When the bus arrived at the station we were (not surprisingly) mobbed by taxi drivers. As we exited the bus we turned left and walked down the road until we came to a main street (not far at all) - Weidu Dadao - and flagged a taxi there (the neurosurgeon told us that if we got a taxi at the bus stop we'd be overcharged, which is also not surprising).
The driver did not seem to want to take us to our hotel - The Garden Hotel. The surgeon explained that it was really inconvenient to go there right now - were we sure we didn't want to go somewhere else? I was starting to wonder if they were trying to scam me, although it seemed strange that the surgeon would do so. I said I still wanted to go to the hotel I'd picked, and as it turned out, it really was inconvenient to get there since the road our hotel was located on (Xiao Nanjie I think) is totally torn up and is just a big stretch of dirt and construction equipment where no one can drive a all at the moment. He dropped us in a nearby street and a staff member from the hotel came to fetch us.
The Garden Hotel is very nice. It felt quite fancy and had an impressive lobby, although the room we booked was nice but nothing over the top. I just reserved it on Ctrip. It was 330 for a double and included two really great breakfasts (huge buffet with all kinds of western and chinese food, made to order omelets, etc.). In the morning we took a taxi to the train station (10 yuan) to find the CITs office. If you stand at the entrance of the train station facing toward the city, you need to walk to your right. There is a street going off to the right and you should see a sign for CITs, indicating that you need to go down the alley across from Datong Securities. You'll see the Datong Securities sign nearby. Then follow the signs down the alley to find the CITs office.
Mr. Gao is still running daily trips to the Yungang grotto and Hanging Temple. You can leave your bags at the hotel by the CITs office during the tour. 100 for transit only or 420 for transit, admission fees, and lunch. I didn't realize it would be included, but there was also an English-speaking guide who went around to the various caves with us at Yungang and gave a lot of interesting background info. She also gave some commentary about the Hanging Temple but did not go into it. I had read some people's reports previously indicating that the Hanging Temple was overpriced for what it is, and I have to agree. The Yungang grotto was awesome. You should go. I can't remember for sure, but I think it is currently 150 for admission... expensive, but it was a really interesting and rewarding site to visit. But the Hanging Temple, although nice, was in my personal impression and that of my husband as well, not really worth the 130 yuan entrance fee. If I'd known beforehand, then we probably would have just taken the public bus to the Yungang caves and skipped the temple. But if you wish to see both, it is nice that the tour Mr. Gao arranges is available. Datong didn't seem like a great city to hang around in so we were happy to see both things in one day and then be able to move on that evening (although to be fair we did not really look around Datong much).
When we returned from the tour, Mr. Gao helped several people who had questions about onward transit or booking other hotels. He did not seem at all pushy. We'd mentioned we were going to Pingyao next, but he did not ask us about transit or hotels and just seemed to help people who directly asked him for help. He assisted me with making a phone call to a future hotel just to ask a question, even though he got nothing out of it, and I appreciated that. Once everyone was gone, we actually chatted for awhile with Mr. Gao about life in China right now, modernization, etc. We enjoyed our talk with him and then left to have dinner and catch our night train to Pingyao.
There were many people we encountered who were trying to get train tickets to Pingyao within the next few days and couldn't, except hard seat in some cases. Book ahead in the summer! (Maybe in off season, too, but I don't know if it'd be as difficult then). You do not need to be in Datong to book tickets leaving from Datong.
Aug 8, 2012 12:51 AM
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