Trip report: Beijing, Xian, Datong and Chengde(3)by walter_ba21
Last updated by amanda at 2008/11/26; Destinations:
13 June - Datong
We waked up very early and in less than an hour of flight we arrived in Datong. Datong is a city of 3 million inhabitants, important for its coalmines and therefore a polluted city, but it is famous above all for the Yungang Grottoes (literally "Cloud Ridge Caves"), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In airport we met our likeable guide, Joan and the driver with a minibus for us. The first stop has been at the Hanging Monastery (Xuankong Sì), about 70 km from Datong. This monastery clinging to the cliff side, has been built approximately 1.400 years ago directly on a sheer precipice. The wooden halls and structures are linked by an ingenious system of pillars, posts and footbridges.
It’s a very interesting monastery not only for the constructive characteristics, but also because it includes elements of the three main religions of China (Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism). We liked this delicious monastery very much and walking on its footbridges and looking down is stunning. Later we returned to Datong for lunch: at last a good lunch, we appreciated very much. After a short visit to a monastery in the city, we went to visit the Yungang Grottoes, the true reason of this excursion.
The Yungang grottoes are something astonishing, over all imagination, completely carved from the pavement to the ceiling with religious themes and with Indian and Persian influences, because of the origin of the artists and craftsmen who worked here. For me, to be here, has been an inexpressible emotion. We are remained here for much time to admire this masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art (from the 5th and 6th centuries). Later we have been accompanied to the Hongan Int. Hotel. This 4 star hotel is well situated in the center of Datong, its rooms are very comfortable and clean and the breakfast buffet is very good. We decided to have dinner in hotel in one of the 3 restaurants (Chinese, Korean and western a restaurants). My wife saw in the western restaurant’s menu the Milanese veal cutlet and was taken from unexpected nostalgia for Italian food, therefore we decided to eat here. The Milanese veal cutlet was not like an authentic "Milanese", but it was not bad.
14 June – Great Wall
After an abundant breakfast we took the flight to Beijing. In airport we met Terry, our new guide, and the driver with a minibus. We leave for Jinshanling Great Wall. We had lunch in a nice restaurant, where was served the "Lavazza" coffee and where we saw also the publicity of the “Illy” coffee. It is funny to find Italian signs so far away from house. By the way, Illy, the owner of the Illy coffee, has been the mayor of our town.
Unfortunately it was raining and it was foggy when we arrived to the Great Wall. But if we traveled so far to climb the Great Wall, surely we would not be stopped by a few water! We bought three raincoats and than we took the cable car. We had the rare privilege to be alone on the top, without other tourists.
In spite of the weather, the experience has been great. We were conscious to admire an important piece of history, the most famous symbol of the Chinese civilization. Like authentic tourists, we bought some T-shirts with printed “I climbed the Great Wall". Then it was time to continue our journey to Chengde, where we arrived in the late afternoon.
In hotel we met Helen, our guide for Chengde. The hotel, Shanzhuang Resort or Mountain Villa Resort – 3 star, is a good hotel in front of the entrance of the Mountain Resort. The breakfast has been great, the room clean and comfortable for 2 persons, but the extra bed was not confortable. In the evening we went to a restaurant just a few minute walking distance from the hotel. This has been the best dinner of our journey. We have eaten deer and beef and the food has been delightful. Chengde in fact is renowned for good cuisine and especially for the game. Walking back to the hotel we took some photos. There were many vendors on the street who were selling fruits. One of them offered us to taste a fruit, which we have never seen before. He said us something like "mangostà", the name of the fruit I suppose. The fruit was delicious with a taste like banana, but very juicy and so we bought some of them. The dialogue with the vendors has been funny, he speaking Chinese and we speaking English, both also with the gestures. And the Chinese number gestures are so different!
To be continued ...