I have decided to call Linh and I ‘The Travelling Sisters’ as it seems that we have been, and will continue to do a fair bit of travelling together each year :o) Our most recent escapade was to Datong and Pingyao in Shanxi Province.
These two destinatons in Shanxi are not ususally on a typical travel itinerary but are visited very frequently by domestic tourists. Shanxi is mineral rich and one of the leading coal producers in China with known coal deposits that account for a third of the country’s total. Shanxi has more coal companies than any other province with annual production exceeding 300 million metric tonnes.
We didn’t go there to see the heavy industry. From Beijing, we drove to Datong city which is where we based ourselves to go see the Yungang Grottoes and Hanging Temple. The Yungang Grottoes are caves or carved out crevices that contain rock-cut architecture of Buddhist images that were created between the 5th and 6th century. The other sight near Datong is the famous Xuankongsi, or otherwise known as the Hanging Temple. The temple was built more than 1,500 years ago on the side of a cliff and looks amazing.
From Datong, we then took a slow train to Pingyao which is home to one of the best preserved ancient cities in China. Its history goes back 2,700 years and we stayed in a guesthouse that was 500 years old. What I loved most about the ancient city was that it still has roughly 50,000 inhabitants who live and work in the traditional courtyard houses. What I loved least, though, was the continual heavy reliance on coal. You could see it in the air and feel it at the back of your throat :o(
Here is what we saw and explored.