We left the station post-haste and went out to where a bunch of taxis were waiting. And because god loves us, they were all non-metered cabs and the drivers wouldn't do it for anything less than 120 kuai. Fuck THAT. We refused and ran around trying to hail an actual cab. And then, because it's Beijing and the cabdrivers don't know jack, the driver didn't know where it was. The fucking long distance train station! Come ON!
Yeah, so we missed our train. We were able to switch our tickets to another train leaving at 1:00 though, so it worked out.
Being in the train station was an … interesting experience. I've grown used to being stared at here, to the point where I don't even notice it much anymore. But, I don't usually hang out in train stations, much less with three other white people and two ABCs and a HongKongese. We attracted a crowd. I'm being literal. We also attracted some police officers, who wanted to know why Carol (Hongkongese girl, who also speaks fluent Mandarin) knew so many foreigners and why she was with us in the first place. Seriously, they were freaking interrogating her and she just kept saying, "shenme wenti?" (what's the problem?) and I have no idea what flew up their asses and died because they wouldn't leave her alone for like 10 minutes.
But, the crowd moved off when the fight started. Some woman picked a fight with the security guard. I didn't hear what he said to her, I think he was telling her to stop begging, and she just started hitting him. Her friend tried to restrain her, but she broke free and went after the guard again. Then, he bound her hands in those plastic ties and started beating her. I was a little appalled.
Anyway, our train eventually came, and we boarded, and immediately had to fork over another 50 kuai to get beds. Even though we had already paid for beds, apparently that part of the ticket was voided when we missed our train. I was really tired and immediately crawled into bed and tried to go to sleep but it was not to be. The woman who slept below me totally belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records under LOUDEST SNORER EVER. I don't think I slept at all.
Saturday: We arrived in Datong at 7:30 and IT WAS FREAKING COLD. ::whimpers in memory:: Lac wouldn't stop making fun of the rest of us for wearing so many clothes, cause his stupid Canadian ass was only wearing a long sleeved t-shirt and a thin turtleneck sweater. Freak of nature.
Anyway, we inquired around looking for a cheap hotel, preferably without cockroaches, and found one that fit both criteria to drop off our stuff. Thence, to Yungang caves. They were amazing. There are a couple hundred caves along the side of a hill/cliff/thing, and each one is absolutely filled, walls and ceilings, with carvings of Buddha. Some of them were pretty worn away, which you'd expect from carvings done in the 5th and 6th centuries, but some of them were remarkably well preserved. Some even still had most of their paint still on, though I assume that's newer than the carvings themselves.
After lunch (we had some banging noodles that the region is famous for, which I have no idea what you call in English but the direct translation is knife peel noodles) we caught a bus and then a cab the 80 kms out to the Hanging Monastery. This place was so freaking cool. The three story temple is just sort of stuck on the side of a freaking cliff; the lowest level is at least 100 feet up. And, if you look at the supports up close, several of them are quite badly cracked. How safe! After awhile, one temple starts to look much like another, but when you shake things up by tacking the thing onto a cliff, well, that's memorable. :-)
Sunday: We got up and wandered around the city. There was a sign post for some tree that was supposed to be historical/interesting, but we couldn't find it. We just wandered through a market and a couple of interesting looking streets for a couple hours instead. Then it was time to catch the train back.
Aside: Apparently, in China, being blonde entitles you to a seat on the bus in the same way that being old entitles you to one everywhere else. Seriously, people won't stop trying to give me their seats and it's really disconcerting. In Datong, this little old lady got up and tried to give me her seat, and when I wouldn't take it, she grabbed my arm and tried to make me sit down. Yesterday, a school girl got up and tried to give me her seat, and we got into this, "no no, YOU sit!" back and forth thing and in the end some other woman took the seat.
Sometimes I have no shame in taking advantage of my foreignness. For instance, I refuse to work unpaid overtime, even though all of the Chinese do it. But most of the time, I'd rather people weren't so fixated on the color of my skin.