Day 4 and 5: Arrival in Datong

Lire en Français : Jour 4 et 5 : Arrivée à Datong

Datong trail runningThe battlements of Datong in the heart of the new expanding city.

First trip by train, 2300 people on board (Day 4)

Datong trail runningDisplay system at Beijing central train station. Better if you can read some words.

So it is the 30th of September and it’s 1am. After about one hour of sleep I wake-up and leave the hostel in Beijing quickly make my way to the train station. Mission: Take a train in China for the first time.

Datong trail runningFirst waiting hall towards my train.

After a 30 minute walk I’m in front of the train station. I pass the first ticket and passport control then I follow the signs between the crowd of commuters seated or sleeping on the floor. I have to find the main hall and the waiting room that corresponds to my train. The closer I get to my train the more dense the crowd gets and temperature rise.

Datong trail runningThe last hall, waiting room before accessing the platform.

I’m in a huge queue for my train for almost 45 minutes, but the time flies. People stare at me, giving curious looks. Strange, I’m the only white guy on the horizon. A Chinese guy tries his english with me while his girl friend is jealous. It’s funny.

When I get on board in the end, it is like a big airplane. You pass a check point at the gate to the platform and one at the train’s gate. It takes more than twenty minutes to get the commuters onboard and fill-up over twenty wagons, thats over 2300 people on board..! Yet the train leaves almost 5 minutes in early…!

Datong trail runningA night seated in a packed train. It’s the beginning of the national holidays.

I was not looking forward to the long trip, since I have a ticket to be seated and that the trip is over six hours long. Half asleep I’m typing on my phone the summary of the previous days. I may sleep for about  30 minutes at the end of the journey.

Arrival at Datong

I have now arrived in the city of the my new stage: Datong. It is just after 9am. I can picture myself  arriving at the hostel in no time. I take out the printed Google map out as well as directions I got from the hostel. According to the map  it is not that far, I start walking. The hostel said I should take a taxi at the train station showing the address in Chinese. I take a few steps towards the main road to get my bearings. I look for a second major road to know my position, this is where it gets confusing.

Datong trail runningA crabs vendor in the middle of nowhere – close to a battlements renovation site.

I decide to make my way down the first major road and ask for directions. Some garbage collectors are happy to help and to provide work to the police so that they take me to the local police help desk. After about 15 minutes, unable to tell me where my hostel is located, the police starts wondering how I got here. I decide to leave and look for a taxi. I ask a taxi driver and he tells  me he does not know the place. I stop a second one, same answer. I keep walking in what seems to be the correct direction, hoping to find more clues. I’m sort of visiting the city with which may I add a 25kg bags on my back.

Datong trail runningOne of the pagoda of the old town, construction sites everywhere around.

I stop another taxi with whom the driver speaks a lot but does not drive me where I want to go.  I realize even more now that the map I have is not matching reality. Well the city is like a giant construction site. The streets and buildings are being destroyed and rebuilt everywhere. I need to find a solution. I go to the first western like hotel I see and ask for help at the reception where they speak English. After many questions by phone the receptionist has some doubts about the validity of my hostel. I’m being told to go to another hotel and that someone will come and pick me up when I call. I entrust the choice of a taxi that knows the road to the receptionist and thank her for her precious support with some lavender.

The meeting point is a five-start hotel where a wedding ceremony is taking place. One of many in the city today. I get my contact called by the reception. In such you get what you ask for if you ask with sufficient conviction. Stupidly, I ask my contact:

How will I recognize you?

Don’t worry I will recognize you?

Of course, pretty obvious :)

Datong trail runningThe view of Datong from the hostel (here on the modern side of the city).

The hostel is next door, a big duplex at the 22nd floor! Finally, it is 12.30am!

I spend the rest of the days replying to messages, sorting pictures and writing the lines above…

Day 5

In fact, there was an error in the map from Google: they had moved one of the main street name by 3 large streets.  This explains why I could not find the place… However I don’t understand why the police and taxi drivers could not give me directions.

Very good news, I received the tickets for the following trains for the first half of the challenge.

Datong trail runningHuge Buddhas carved in the cliff.

ticket014The Yungang Grottoes, a registered world heritage at UNESCO.

Engraved Buddhas

In Datong the air is more fresh than in Beijing, today the sky is clear. This morning I have been with the English guys from the hostel to visit the Buddhist engravings nearby. The English guys are students in Chinese. Most of the travellers here (beside package tours) speak Chinese.

Datong trail runningEngravings within the park.

Datong trail runningThe engraving inside the cliff permitted good conservation of the colors.


Another monument of the Yungang grottoes carved in the cliff.

Datong trail runningOne of the temples, that seems original, in the same area.

So we did just like the locals do and go to the grottoes: two buses, 1 yuan (0,12€) each and we have lunch in the street for 5 yuans (0.6€). By the way I keep hydrating and feeding myself with care. Yesterday evening I have had two plates of pasta in addition to the proteins.

Datong trail runningLunch in the street, meat and coriander noodles for almost nothing.

Three new joining the third run

I am going to the shops to help the tenant (Tina) from the hostel buy some shoes so that she can join tomorrow. An Italo-australian guy (Sacha) will come as well. I will run loops at good speed while they will climb the mountain walking. The loop at the top of the mountain is small: 5.5km and its 11.5km for the full trip from the bottom of the hill. It is also more friendly to share a taxi together rather than going by myself.

Regarding the error on the city map, I have tried to find excuses for Google but they were just wrong. I have been asking around and the street nor its name has changed recently.

I keep sorting photos that I can’t send at the moment and have my lunch (another lunch after the noodles in the street), a large bowl of rice with vegetables and half a large bowl of pasta with vegetables.

Datong trail runningThe hostel tenant with her new pair of shoes for tomorrow’s run.

Datong trail runningAmong the things that got me surprised at the supermarket: the large variety of eggs.

In the evening  I go with Tina and Sacha to do some shopping for the next day and we go for diner in a nice restaurant known for its spicy food (in fact a chain restaurant I have been in Shanghai).

Datong trail runningSpicy diner, good and cool with Tina and Sacha.

Some more talks and another newcomer, an anglo-chinese is willing to join us tomorrow.

It is now midnight.

Datong trail runningFor a serene rest – part of temple among the grottoes.

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One comment on “Day 4 and 5: Arrival in Datong
  1. Omar Fonseca says:

    I enjoy reading all the details and this time I laughed a lot with the joke about how to recognize the contact…Nice…

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