Trademark

ASIA & CHINA - THE "KEEP ON SMILING" TOUR

Datong Postcard

DATONG

"A RELIGION TO LEAN UPON"

Tripping off the train, I was met by a representative from the China International Travel Service (CITS).

I had just landed in Datong, 350 kilometres east of Beijing. The city, a coal-mining mega-city, was another diversion while I waited for my Tibetan visitors permit.

The guidebook described the city as thus -

‘Datong is the poster child for all that’s environmentally wrong with fossil-fuel addiction.’

The guidebook continued and expanded –

‘The uplifting remains of times past are balanced out by sulphurous air pollution, contaminated groundwater and suburban slag heaps that grow by 80 million tonnes annually.’

Hanging Monastery
Hanging Monastery
Yungang Caves

Yet here I was.

To exacerbate matters I allowed the communist-run China International Travel Service (CITS) organise my accommodation.

In a room on the 6th floor, across the road from the train station, with a toilet down the hallway, a shower on the 8th floor, a rug for a bed cover, a pillow case covered with a stranger’s facial hairs and no room key.

Never learning from my multiple mistakes and doubling down, early the next morning I let the China International Travel Service (CITS) organise my activities for the day ahead.

It was a minivan day-trip and heading out of the city, passing communities living in mud-brick huts, it did not look good.

Until the minivan tour group reached the Hanging Monastery – ancient, crumbling temples built into a cliff; protecting themselves from the ‘climate-warming’ floods rushing down the canyon, due to arrive any time soon.

Then after a meal of Chinese hot-pot it was back into the minivan and onwards towards the Yungang Caves; the caves housing a series of grottoes, apparently the earliest Buddhist carvings in China.

Not dissimilar to my accommodation in Datong.

Yungang Caves
Yungang Caves