Datong, caves and hanging monastries

Datong Travel Blog

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We caught our sleeper train with no problems, and arrived in Datong in the wee hours of the morning. A very eager dude who worked at the Touist office at the station guided us to the nearest and cheapest hotel. We got there, and met our roomate- A female buddhist monk! She was so friendly and helpful with what we wanted to see here. We said bye and headed off for some bargaining- with the minibuses. After making a miscommunication error (seemes to be happing alot!) we managed to find ourselves on the right bus. We were off! After a few hours of stopping and starting- for what- we will never know- we were dropped at the top of a very long driveway amongst some mountains. It wasnt until we got off and looked down the hill did we see what we came for- the Hanging Monastry! Bascially it is a monastry built into the cliff face, built a couple of thousand years ago! wow.

Thanks to recent renovations we were able to go inside and check it out- very cool. From there, there was a pathway leading up to a tunnel- the entrance being the shape of a dragons head. After a few silly photos we walked up and had a look at a few more statues built into the cliff face. We met a fellow solo traveller here, Hans, from Holland. We got talking and he decided to continue the day with us and come see the wooden Pagoda. He was extra helpful- he could speak chinese!! He managed to sort a taxi for us and off we went. An hour later we got to the Pagoda- standing tall amongst the modern city street. Apparently no nails were used in the constuction of this pagoda- quite impressive. Later that night we had dinner with our new mate, then headed to bed.

Next day we were all pumped up to see the Cloud Ridge Caves- our main reason for coming to Datong.

And we were not disappointed. We arrived (in another minibus) to a bit of drizzly rain- but chose to have lunch first. By time we were finished the skies had cleared so we headed toward the cliff face full of myserious looking holes. We paid our 'student fees' and headed to the first cave- to find a humungous buddha inside! he was HUGE! and despite the no camera signs everywhere, that wasnt stopping the other tourists so we got snap happy. There were many caves with  mazzive buddhas in them- all were grand in size and unbelievable to look at. Unfortunaltely a local coal mine has damaged the surface of many of the carvings, but a few years ago the Chinese changed the roads to try and prevent further damage. I can only imagine what its doing to the locals bodies!! We kept walkig along and came across the two buddhas seen to advertise the place. The cave that once hid them has eroded away so they are fully exposed, but this makes them all the more impressive. We loved this place and would highly reccomend the visit!



portia says:
The map is showing the wrong Datong, the one mentioned in this blog is in Shanxi province, just west of Beijing. The one shown on the map is in Gansu, way west. Thanks for the recommendation though, it is a famous place and I would love to visit it.
Posted on: Nov 10, 2006
David says:
Hans for the win!
Posted on: Apr 14, 2006
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photo by: Deats