We slept pretty well and started off the day well with a quick Skype call with Shane. First sight was the Temple of Heaven. It was quite hot there, and it is a haven for people go and play music, cards, dominoes, tai chi ball, tai chi, singing, and advertising for prospective son and daughter-in-laws.
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This place was also quite a popular place for wedding photos, with several couples getting them done.
In the days of the Emperors they would go to pray for the good harvests, and it sounded very ritualistic. Lunch was at another restaurant and we had a beef dish and kung po shrimp, which was very tasty.
Although to us it seemed quite early, we were then taken to Beijing Train Station. It took ages for the car even to get near the entrance, and we ended up getting out beforehand. Then it really was an eye opener, with thousands of people lined up just to get in the first entrance gate with security at 3 checkpoints. Despite this we had metal cutlery which they didn't even seem to care about in our backpacks. Once the platform was announced, we then went to a huge waiting room, which had another thousand people and had to stand for ¾ of an hour before we got a seat. At about a quarter to 3 we decided to go to the next waiting room and waited some more. There appeared to be a line forming so we elected to join it, and luckily it 'was' the correct one. We eventually got onto the train. Our ticket was for a soft sleeper, which turns out to be 4 bunks. We had the bottom two (indicated on our tickets), and two young men were in the top.
At first we went through some mountains, with lots of tunnels, and really interesting valleys and rock faces. Although in most places the poorest people live beside the railway lines, the shanties were amazingly dilapidated, and there were piles of building waste and rubbish. There were acres of corn being grown on the farmland after the mountains, also sunflowers, and garden plots close to the shanties. In some places people were herding sheep to graze on the grass beside the track. Just when I thought the pollution was starting to abate, we hit a huge industrial city with many chimneys spewing gases. There also seemed to be lots of abandoned factories and industrial buildings. A huge power station had lots of cooling towers, some no longer in use. We took turns sleeping, and while Darryl was asleep we went through a wild storm. After that, it was nice to see a rainbow, and later a sun-dog. For dinner we just ate nuts, Chinese dates, and Darryl had a delicious dragonfruit (which was really cheap compared to Australia). The train seemed fairly smooth and comfortable.
We arrived at Datong at around 10pm, just missing a heavy shower of rain. We were met at the station by our guide Peter, and driver Yao, who delivered us safely to Datong Hotel (with a slight mistake by our Tour Company as we were booked into a twin room not double.