June 12th Part 1 – Getting Out

I left off while I was waiting for my flight to beijing. This plane was much older – still discolored from smoking inside, and with old crt TVs that dropped down from the roof. The flight was uneventful if a bit bumpy, and we made it to beijing on time at 11:40 pm.
They separated passengers from LAX from the domestic passengers when we got off, and put us on a seperate shuttle. (the plane didn’t park at a gate.) ours went all the way over to the other side of the airport so that we could arrive at the international terminal. Amazingly, my bad made it without problems.

I took out some money from an atm, and grabbed a taxi to the train station.

I arrived at the train station at 1 am. It’s an interesting place at 1 am. There are tons of people around. Outside one group of them are trying to offer you hourly rates on hotels so that you can stay somewhere until your train shows up. There are also a ton of migrants and street hawkers sleeping there. (on newspaper or sacks of stuff, or whatever.)

I walked around until I found a crowd of people and was able to get a ticket for the 2:50 train. (the 2:30 one was full). It was 65 kuai (~$10). I wandered around inside the station which was more creepy than outside. They had the lights off for whatever reason, and there was lots of construction going on. People were on scaffolds changing ads and also building some center pieces.

I hung out in the mcdonalds – the only place open at that hour – for about an hour and sent an email saying I was ok, since for whatever reason my phone decided it had internet.

Then I went to the platform and hung out there for the other hour. I ended up talking with a couple guys, one about my age and another a few years younger. they were waiting for a 3:30 am train to haerbin, and were envious that I was traveling alone. “my parents wouldn’t let me do that…”

Got on the train and found out I had a bed, not a seat as I feared. Got a couple hours of sleep from 3 to 5 until it got light out, and snoozed for a bit more.
By six I was up, and watching the scenery go by outside of the train.

Beijing had been too hot at 1am, but over here it’s really not bad, and it cools down well at night. The country reminds me of oregon, minus the cultivation. The hills are the same reddish color, and there are sharp gorges running through the plain.

I couldn’t get my gps to relocate, since I wasn’t stationary outside for 15 minutes, so the photos aren’t going to be geotagged for this part.

There were two couples and one guy who got off at 6am in the 6 person compartment I was in. Both couples were very nice, and had good things to say about datong. The conductor for my car was also really nice, making sure I knew when to get off and chatting with me.

I got in a 9am. Went over to the ticket office and got a ticket for the ride back. It’s I think more direct (it has a k in front of the name) though is a bit more expensive at 100 kuai.
It gets me where I need to go though.

I then found a taxi, and said essentially: “i need a hotel…” near the center of town would be nice. he looked at me quisically, but I ended up in the xinsanhuan hotel which is in the center of town – or at least the two in town attractions are right nearby since we drove past both of them on the way over.

240 / night, so $150 ish for the 4 days. I decided I was lost enough at this point that I’ll stay here and do day trips. I’m going to do the two in-town attractions this afternoon, the caves tomorrow, and hopefully find a way to get down to the mountain the day after.

Datong is an interesting city. The traffic is some of the worst I’ve seen yet. Worse than beijing 5 years ago or guizhou. It’s compounded by the fact that the highway is under repair right now, so the way from the train station to the city involves stretches of unpaved single lane road with 4 lanes squeezing through it. also tons of people out.

It seems fairly gritty. There are a couple huge coal plants to the south of the city that dominated the skyline as we approached. Interesting place, although I don’t quite have a feel for it yet.

I’m a bit tired, but I think I’ll be able to make it through today.

It’s a relief that I’ve gotten this far. The next thing on my todo list is getting tickets for xi’an and that will happen when I get back to beijing.