Shanxi Province's

DATONG

Global Mark : 11.30

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
1 3 1 5 2 2 1 2

2

8.44

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend Range AVER.
23 91%  (21) 35%  (8) 100%  (23) 11 to 18 14.17

   
Description :
A black coal city with the marvelous Yungang Caves, arguably the most impressive of China

Comments : CITS (China International Travel Service) is very active and aggressive here and you may have to go through them for a number of service, being for sleeping in a train or in a room...

What to do : Visit CITS office / Spend  hours in the train station trying to buy a train ticket / Decompress by visiting the superb caves / Talk with the very friendly locals

What you may not like : Visit CITS office too many times / Not being able to buy a train ticket  except via CITS for a commission (Y40 sleeper, Y10 hard seat) / The city itself : poor, polluted and dirty / Arriving too late for the bus to the Hanging Monastery or CITS Tour / The limited choice of accommodations

How long ? One day is enough if you visit only the caves or take the CITS Tour. 

 

 << Discover three excellent reasons to visit...


Where to stay ? 

If you have to take a morning bus to Wutaishan, you will have little choice but to spend the night here. Otherwise, there is the night train to Beijing !

Traditionnally, the cheapest places had to be booked through CITS : it should cost basically 45Y for a dorm bed in 4 beds' rooms. Unfortunately, both the Railway Hotel and the Yungang Hotel get bad review from travelers as they are quite dirty. The Datong Hotel is much nicer but cost 80Y in a nice Trpl with bath. 

For private rooms, check the rates at CITS. Prices start at 160Y for a dbl with bath. In this category, prefer the Hongqi Hotel to the Feitian Hotel.

There may be hope : a backpacker reported a new hotel, independant (?) from CITS. Apparently, it costs Y20 for a dorm and Y78 for a Dbl w. shower & TV. Turn left when you exit the station and continue for 100m until a white building. No English sign. 


What to see/visit ?

CITS offers day tour (8:30 to 19), first to the caves and then to the Hanging Monastery, for Y100 per person excluding entrance fees (some travelers have managed to get the price down to 40Y but this was probably miraculous). There is little reason to go with them if you plan to visit the caves only.

- Yungang Caves : Y20        

This is the only real reason to come to Datong and it is certainly worth the effort...

- Hengshan Mountain : Y20 for the mountain area + Y20 for the village at the top, Exp

- The Great Wall : free / Two sections of the wall are accessible by bus, respectively 25 and 30km away. The further one is the nicest thanks to the small villages around it. It is  accessible by minibus heading toward Inner Mongolia for Y7. Before getting off the bus, ask the driver for direction as the wall is now rather invisible...

- Hanging Monastery : Y27, Exp

Quite a few people are disappointed by what they see, especially coming from the caves. "This is only another temple that is hanging" resumed a traveler but other are thrilled...

Going there is tricky as you first have to take a bus to Hunyuan, 5km away from the temple and then walk or take a taxi (Y20 return). Alternatively, you can take the 7:30 bus to Wutaishan and get off at the monastery.

From Hunyuan, the last bus back to Datong leave at around 16. Alternatively, you could spend the night in Hunyuan (cheaper than in Datong ?) and catch the bus from Datong to Wutaishan at around 9am the next morning (or take a private minibus for Y50 at around noon if the public bus is not running)


Backpacker's Tips :  Al Suhu, USA (April 04)
 Don't bother to pay for a CITS tour or any private tour of the Yungang caves. It is easy to get to the caves via public bus at a cost of only 2.5 yuan. From the train station, take bus #4 (1Y) to the last stop (Xinkaili) and switch to the #3 (1.5Y) bus across the street. Bus #3 stops in front of the Yungang caves 14 km away from the city center. New entrance fee = 60Y.
The Hanging Monastery is not worth the trouble to visit unless you plan to climb up Hengshan Mountain (2017m) and visit the Taoist temples constructed
on the cliffsides. You can see the Hanging Monastery while driving to the mountain entrance. Unfortunately, there is no public transportation to the mountain entrance. The cheapest method is to take a public bus (10Y) to Hunyuan village, 58km from the Datong long distance bus station. Then pay a taxi (120Y) to take you 15 km up the mountain road to the starting point of the Taoist monasteries. Taxi fare includes return trip to Hunyuan bus station and three-hour wait while you climb up the mountain. Entrance fee at base of mountain = 12Y plus 2Y insurance. Entrance fee to climb mountain and visit monasteries = 35Y. It's possible to visit the Hanging monastery, but don't bother. Just take a picture from the road.


Trains
 


The trip to Wutaishan :
Bus / SSSS / L&R / Y40 / 6 hours

In theory, there is a public bus everyday leaving at 7:30 but in practice you may have to deal with private operators... In theory, foreigners are not allowed to leave Datong by bus without an expensive CITS permit but in practice, you can buy the ticket once in the bus... In theory, the beautiful trip takes 6 hours but in practice, it could take longer if some Chinese tourists start arguing about the Y50 entrance fee to Taihuai area (the bus will not leave the gate until everybody has been properly racketed)...

See also trip from Beijing to Datong...