Door to a Different World
Although Datong is not renowned as one of China’s most aesthetically pleasing locations, it has several stunning historical treasures located just outside the city. Datong’s claim to fame, the Yungang Caves, is impressive enough to spark the interest of children of all ages. Made up of 21 grottos with Buddhist carvings dating from the fifth century, the caves hold enormous, awe-striking statues. The Datong Hanging Monastery, an ancient wooden Buddhist monastery more than 1,400 years old, clings to the side of a cliff above a river and is equally as enthralling, though definitely not for the faint of heart!
The Travelers: Americans Aaron and Donna Taylor, and their kids Toby (8) and Garrett (6).
The Route: With Datong only a four-hour drive away from Beijing, the Taylors took their own mini-van and experienced driver, which Donna says is essential due to the regular truck spills and mule-drawn carts plugging up the highway.
Ancient Pagoda: Around 70km south of Datong lies the magnificent Wooden Pagoda, the oldest and highest wooden structure in China, regarded as the “First Pagoda in the World.” The pagoda stands 67 meters high and has withstood over 900 years of earthquakes and exposure to the elements. Decorated with beautiful murals, its eaves are dotted with bells that tinkle in the breeze.
Where to Stay: The Taylors found Datong Hotel friendly and the breakfast satisfactory (0352 586 8666).