Day 7 and 8: Datong Red Light, Green Light

Lire en Français : Jour 7 et 8 Datong “Un, deux, trois… Soleil!”

A pagoda on the wall of the old Datong.

Day 7 : Rest day dedicated to logistics

So it is a day where I can access a computer, dedicated to logistics. Among others, starting by creating a Weibo account, a Chinese version of Twitter (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube are normally not accessible in China). The goal is to stay in contact with some of the people I meet during this project. Despite the “English” button, you still need to find your way through the Apps and websites [edit : new and better English version of the App has been released mid-November, things are going so fast!]. Make the difference between a Weibo account and a Sina Weibo account. Set-up everything on the Phone to centralize all communications.

My nickname is “Wanlifeiyue”, the pinyin for the project name in Chinese. I update my contact details, I add and configure the appropriate plug-in for the website.

trail running china datongAt noon we go for lunch break at a restaurant in the shopping mall next door. A little curious guy sitting next to us :).

For lunch I am invited to try some specialties suggested by Tina and the other tenants. It is really cool and interesting to share more than a key and a deposit with the tenants. They are really helpful and kind.

Phone credit

Second important mission of the day: phone credit on my mobile. I bought a mobile with a SIM at Beijing so that I can be reached easily, at low cost, from China and world-wide. I got a message from the operator saying that I have little credit left. In theory, I just have to go to a phone shop, buy some credit, enter the numbers in my phone, and voilà!

Well, not really… In fact why do I even need credit when I’m not making any outgoing calls (I thought my phone did not come with credit at all!)? I found out that mobile services are regionalized. When I receive a call outside the Beijing area, I’m charged a fraction of RMB (Chinese currency) per minute. What is most surprising is that you can only buy credit in the area where you registered the phone! What do you think of that one!?

Luckily the hostel in Datong has a sister hostel in Beijing and the tenant is kindly offering to ask her colleague in Beijing to buy some credit for me and send us the numbers to top-up the phone. I came so close having a useless mobile for the rest of the project! For info, it is possible to listen to the menus of the vocal services in English, they are behind the ten menus in Chinese :).

trail running china datong
Just one beer… Russian beer.

Just one beer

Inside the flat all day long, I accept the invitation of some guests to go for a beer – I declined the day before, not wanting to drink alcohol during this period and preferring a Chinese foot massage :).

The only beer with some taste in the area is a Russian beer. It has taste, and alcohol too: the ABV is 8% and it is sold by half-litter bottles. [edit: some Russians consider it as a 'get drunk cheap'.] After 3 weeks not drinking alcohol, one bottle and I am joyful ;).

trail running china datongView of modern Datong from the hostel.

trail running china datongView of old Datong from the hostel. Pagodas at regular intervals on the city wall.

Day 8

I’m still in Datong. The national holidays, it is like “Red light, Green light” or “Sly fox” or “Peep behind the curtain” or “Grandmother’s steps” in UK, well you just don’t travel  :) There is almost no way to travel (especially by train, no seats left) and there is no accommodation (fully booked). That is why I planned to leave Beijing before the holidays to gain mobility. Wutai Shan (Thai huai), is the next stage after Heng Shan (Datong) it’s closer and accessible with a 5 hour bus journey. However there is no bed available in Thai huai before tomorrow.

I use this extra day of rest to prepare my way back to Beijing, download more maps and POI for the coming stages…

Like in a ghost city

In the afternoon, I suggest to the hostel tenants to go for a walk to the lake. I have no details about this lake except that it is on the city map, it is big, and the return walk from the city-center is 15km. Infact nobody in the hostel knows this lake so they take the opportunity to discover it and join me. We’re taking a dog for the walk with us, one of those fashionable black dogs, called Obama.

trail running china datongOn the way to the lake with the Chinese team of the day.

As we left the city-center, we cross the new city extensions, tens of new buildings and shinning new government offices. Most are not (yet) in use and it seams we are wondering in one of those ghost cities with main carriage roads deserted.

trail running china datongAt the moment it seams there is a ghost city on the East side of Datong.

The lake

Indeed, the lake is big, surrounded with trees and bushes, multiple alleys weaving around. You meet fishermen catching tiny fish and shrimps. A peaceful location, far from the city tumult.

We get back to the hostel by taxi to avoid finishing off Obama (among others).

trail running china datongThe lake on the East side of Datong.

trail running china datongA very focused fisherman collecting shrimps from his nets.

It’s the last evening in Datong for many of the guys in the hostel. We all go out for dinner together, a large table of people, and so many dishes passed around.

Datong by night

That is my last evening too and I haven’t taken any shots of the “old” (rebuilt as new) Datong. That is a good reason for a digestive walk from the hostel and take few night shots. A scooter with 3 passengers on board stops to take a picture with me, with the father, with the daughter… there are really happy. I pass the city wall, walk a bit further in the old town and then jog back. It is more than time for me to go back if I want to sleep a little, my bus is at 7.30am tomorrow.

trail running china datongA father very happy that I was happy to take pictures with him and his daughter, while they were on their way on a scooter with the mum.

trail running china datongAnother view of illuminated Datong.

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