Thursday, June 23, 2005

Datong, Beijing

Yep, time for another....
From Xi'an we took an overnight train north-east to Datong. Yet another dinky town in China that nobody has ever heard of and yet is bigger than Vancouver!! It is nothing more than an industrial town (coal mines everywhere) but we had to stop and see the Cloud Ridge Caves. These are a series of "caves" dug into the side of a 1km long section of a cliff 1500 years ago, full of carved Buddha statues and the like. The largest statue is 17m tall and the detail on the multilayered pagodas in the middle (carved entirely out of the cliff) is absolutely amazing. There are apparently 45 caves and over 51,000 statues though they come in all shapes and sizes. After a few hours taking a look at the caves we caught a 5 hour bus east to Beijing.
Hmm.. Beijing. I don't know what to say. It's huge and it's busy (lots of cars for a change and traffic lights) but it actually doesn't feel like it right in the center where we are. They have huge streets here and then beside the street another 2 car lanes wide for bikes and then huge wide sidewalks. Trees line the streets and it all is quite nice. Of course there is also a lot of pollution and the sky is hazy all the time. Quite frustrating, especially when you are hiking along the great wall and can't see it stretch off into the distance very far. We are staying in a nice hostel in the center of a hutong. Hutongs are the little traditional neighborhoods of narrow streets and China chaos. They are all being torn down and replaced with ultra-modern cityness now so it is good to walk around in one before they're all gone. There is tons of construction everywhere with the Olympics coming in 2008 and many of the tourist sites are also covered with scaffolding too.
It has been brutally hot out here too. High 30's, even at night it is roasting. Apart from the Great Wall (Wow is all I can really say. Would loved to have been able to walk even farther.) we have been to the Forbidden city (this is where the emperors lived and for 500 years nobody else was allowed inside. It is a huge complex which we melted through as it was 38C that day), Tiananmen square (Had a little viewing of Mao. I've now seen all 3 of the great Communist leaders.), the Temple of Heaven (where the emperors would sacrifice and do their thing. Yet another huge park.), an acrobatics show (these people are nuts!), and been getting visas for the next section. We have our Mongolian visa now and will get one for Kazakhstan tomorrow before leaving to Mongolia this weekend. We've been here almost a week now and it is too expensive compared to the rest of China. Our feet are all dead because we've been doing too much walking around. We are averaging about 9 miles a day but in this heat it feels like 100! Mom and I have pedometers which is a lot of fun and gives us a great idea of how much work it is being a tourist.
Can't believe it's been 7 weeks already! Definately ready for another country though.
Don't know how much internet access we'll have in Mongolia (probably none outside the capital) so it might be a while for the next one. We put up some more pictures of China (at the end of the China album) for you to enjoy in the meantime.


At 1:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey guys too bad about all the pollution. I cant imagine what it would be like to walk on the wall. Have you been on Hadrians(?) wall? Scotland. Miss you folks lots summer is coming and Hi5 is getting busy. this weekend I will be in Victoria with Alicia. Amanda had her grade 7 grad dinner tonight, oh my god I cant belive how big a deal they have made of it! Sky if you are following along on this BLOG I will say hi to you from here and will wright to you again when I can think of somthing intelegent to say (that can be very hard for me most of the time). Until next time I hope that all the Watkins that are away from home will be safe and have a good time.
love Malcolm.

At 7:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do all seem to be having a good time. I miss you and wish we could be together. I don't see myself joining you, though. I think that I will just have to enjoy your exploits from afar. I am trying to follow on my nice new map of China and then on to the Southeast Asia one. Keep posting your direction and distances as it helps me. Love the new pics. Keep it up. Grandma/Mom


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