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Friday, July 01, 2011

N. China - Day 10, Part 1 - Datong, Yungang Grottoes

"Never explain--your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway." - Elbert Hubbard

Except this way, your friends may become your enemies

***

N. China
Day 10 - 8th November - Datong, Yungang Grottoes
(Part 1)

I took the night train to Datong so I could see the Yungang Grottoes, but the night train was too fast so I got just under 6 hours of sleep.

This time I took the 软卧 (soft sleeper) again. They played muzak in the corridor, but it was soft and subtle, and not annoying Chinese radio chatter. It actually sounded a bit like Kenny G. However, even this expensive train had a guy spitting in the corridor. Gah.

When I exited Datong station there was some light snow, but it quickly passed. As I exited the station, I was ambushed by a Chinese man speaking in English and offering me a 9am tour. I declined at first, but then he showed me his CITS (China International Travel Service) badge. From Let's Go I'd heard that their tours were quite good, so I relented. Besides, his kungfu was excellent - he knew I was a foreigner even before I opened my mouth (probably because Chinese don't backpack).

The tours were to be 100¥ per person (if there were 3 of us), without lunch and admission. If there were 2, it'd cost 150¥ each. With a minimum of 5 people we could get lunch and admission for 330¥. Apparently if one person hired a car, it'd cost up to 400¥. So perhaps I had not been ripped off that much in Qufu. Then again, it was in the manager's interest to stress that his tour was better.

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"Hot water... 7:00-12:00, 17:00-24:00"
Ahh, the provinces!

He bundled me off with a Vietnamese guy living in Singapore and we went for breakfast.

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"性保健"
("Sexual health")
I love euphemisms. But as euphemisms go this isn't very euphemistic.

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The grit of a real Chinese city. Also see the dirty snow (it was the Vietnamese guy's first time seeing snow: I told him I was quite sad that this had to be his first time).

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"女人减肥"
("Slimming for Girls")
It must be an East Asian thing. This isn't even a big Chinese city!

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Eight Treasures porridge I had. You can see the Ninth Treasure at the top of the bowl and in the second photo. I asked the staff what the Eight Treasures were, and heard "Peanuts" before I lost track. I think there were Job's Tears inside as well.

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Meat Bing (wrapped) and Oil Bing ("油饼" literally, this was not mine)

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Lamb Internal Organs Noodles (I didn't have this)

My breakfast companion said China Southern Airlines was better than Tiger Airlines hah.

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My Meat Bing

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Menu of the place. Yes I know there's another word before 肉饼 but I don't recognise it so I'll just call it "Meat Bing".

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Sausages floating in glop

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Another sex shop. Maybe breathing in coal dust (the primary local industry is coal mining) makes one horny.

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Cock World Time Clocks in the hotel where the CITS office was. You can see that they stopped at different times.

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"Visit Singapore" ad on Qunar.com (a site to find out rail timetables)

The 3 most famous attractions here were:
1) The Yungang Grottoes
2) The Hanging Monastery
3) The Oldest Wooden Building in China (the Sakyamuni Pagoda aka the Yingxian Pagoda)

There were 4 of us in the end: me, the Vietnamese guy living in Singapore, a Malaysian Malay and a British guy working in Hong Kong. This was just enough to fit in a taxi (the manager didn't come along - his job was just to bring us together and coordinate with the taxi driver; if the 4 of us had hired the taxi ourselves, it'd have cost less than 400¥ - ahh coordination problems!), so we went on the tour visiting 1) and 2). We wouldn't be visiting Huayan Si in Datong but there would probably be no time anyway.

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"中国古都
天下大同"
"Ancient Chinese City
Datong Under Heaven"
This was on the taxi driver's headrest

I asked the cab driver if Yungang was a 5A site, and he said yes, adding that it was a World Heritage site. I said it would be my 88th, and he was stunned - perhaps because it was a lucky number.

The cab driver described most days' weather as "Ji1 Zhong1 Dong4 Re4". He was very proud of the best coal in Shanxi coming from Datong. I should've asked if the worst pollution in Shanxi was also in Datong.

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Yungang Grottoes complex entrance

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"Team against the ballot
Small pieces of storage
Explain the service centre"

The "service centre" was like a classy hotel.

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Service centre statue

I was a little disappointed to find that there were some renovation works going on. at Yungang However, I was delighted to find out that:

"经上级部门同意云冈石窟在景区建设期间热行门下30¥浮价"
("Since superiors have agreed Yungang Grottoes, during the renovations, will have a ticket price discount of 30¥")
This was the first time I'd ever seen this, and I certainly didn't expect it in China, where people try and squeeze every last Yuan out of you. So we paid only 100¥.

Before visiting the grottoes I had a look at a suspiciously clean temple complex (Ling Yan Temple): part of it was across the lake from the grottoes and another part was built on the approach to them.

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This is presumably one of the monks who came to this place, but I can't read his name.

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Processional gateway

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Elephant pillar
The elephant seems to have Indian influence.

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Carving of a procession

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Temple across the water

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Yungang caves across the lake

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Another suspiciously clean temple building

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Suspiciously clean beams

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Too-White Pagoda


Bells Chiming on Pagoda

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Hall at the end

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Carvings beside the steps

The men around the door told me that the temple was new (it'd been finished in September) and so by implication I should run along and see the real attractions here: the grottoes (it made me wonder why there were no information plaques around). All the same, it'd been a nice change from "Imperial" Beijing architecture.

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Painting inside hall


Apparently foreigners must join tours to go to Tibet.
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