After popping over to Inner Mongolia, to visit the town of Hohhot, we were back in mainland China, making our way to the mountain town of Wutai Shan for a spot of hiking and temple visits.
Quick morning mongolian workout
I set myself a challenge at the start of our trip (back in July) to try to go for a run in every place that we visited. With this in mind I woke up at sunrise and went for a 5km run, followed by a quick HIIT session in the park close to our hotel.
There are quite a few stray dogs in this part of the world so I finished off my morning workout (rather than doing some more sprints in the park) by running up the stairs of our hotel. As we’d only taken the elevator these past few days to our hotel room I had to mime to the women at reception for directions to the stairwell whilst looking very hot and sweaty… if they were watching me on my ascent through CCTV they probably found it hilarious because half way up the seventeen floors I got really tired and basically ended up crawling up the last few flights…
I also hadn’t taken the room key with me so when I returned to Leah showering (so she didn’t hear me knocking on the door) I ended up stretching on the floor in the hallway for about 10 minutes after…
Journey to Wutai Shan
The reason why I woke up early to run was because we had booked a train back to Datong – where we needed to change to get a coach to Wutai Shan – for 9am. So, after a quick shower, throwing the last bits and bobs into our rucksacks, and testing out our new flasks from yesterday (with coffee), we bought some dried fruit from the stalls opposite and then jumped into a taxi to the station.
After the four hour train journey back to Datong, we revisited the dumpling restaurant by the station for lunch. Although the weather was a lot better this time (which was great because we wouldn’t want to be hauling our rucksacks through the puddles and overflowing streets from Sunday night….) the restaurant was out of vegetable dumpings! I’d been looking forward to them for the entire train journey (sad I know) but they were only selling meat ones today! Instead I had my my staple Chinese meal of aubergines and green beans with rice – which almost always work out well!
Little food rant: Although I understand why the dumpling restaurant caters predominately for meat eaters (as it’s in China and the concept of vegan is virtually unheard of) I don’t understand why they wouldn’t always have a vegetable option of a dish available encase. Instead they have four or five different flavored pork dishes….
After lunch we jumped in a taxi to the coach station and I had to direct the driver myself as he didn’t know where to drive – luckily i’d run this route a few days previously! The coach station was pretty grim when we arrived so we were glad that we hadn’t allocated a lot of time to spend there.
Coach to Wutai Shan
A few things need to be mentioned about the coach journey to Wutai Shan:
1).We were delayed for 30minutes so a guy from a charity could walk up and down asking everyone on the coach for money – we couldn’t work out exactly what it was for due to the language barrier
2). The bus was pretty old and a little run down so from the outset the drive was bumpy (even on the flat, well paved roads, out of the city) – meaning that Leah was asleep almost as soon as the bus left the station
3). As we approached the mountain area where Wutai Shan is situated, the weather took a turn for the worse. The mist was so thick that you couldn’t see a few meters into the distance which was a little disconcerting as we drove through winding mountainous roads – with a sheer drop off of the road side a frequent sight
4). The driver said something to the coach (in Chinese) and everyone started moving from the front of the coach to the back seats that were free. He then directed a larger guy to keep moving positions on the coach as we went past tighter bends on the mountain roads…. we only realised afterwards that he was re-positioning the weight of the bus to try to make it a bit safer!
5). As we entered the scenic area of Wutai Shan we were all hurried off of the bus to buy an entry ticket – which we didn’t know that we had to do….
6). The weather seemed to get worse the closer to Wutai Shan that we got. It was cold, misty, drissling of rain, and the sight of thick jackets and scarfs in the shops that we passed made us feel that we’d underestimated the mountainous weather for September…
Once we were off the coach at Wutai Shan we had to try to get a taxi to our pre-booked hostel. Although this has proved to be a pretty simple task elsewhere in China, there weren’t any taxi’s insight when we arrived. Instead the coach driver said that his friend – who was apparently a taxi driver- would take us to a hotel. We told them that we already had a hotel to go to, which was pre-booked and pre-paid, but they insisted that if we wanted a taxi we would have to go with them. By now it was getting pretty late but we refused and stood our ground until they eventually agreed to drive us where we needed to go.
Needless to say, Wutai Shan wasn’t getting off to a great start…. and that evening it got a little worse…
Although there wasn’t many room options in Wutai Shan for someone on our travelers budget, we managed to find a room in a hotel run by a really nice couple just outside of the main resort. The whole area is a famous Buddhist pilgrimage so we passed lots of monks en-route which was surreal to see.
Because of the late hour we popped across the road to the restaurant opposite our hotel for dinner. Although it was really quiet it specialised in BBQ skewers which we could see being cooked outside so we knew that the food would atleast be fresh. We unfortunately made the cardinal sin of ordering before checking the prices properly. We had asked how much lots of the vegetables were but after receiving the bill at the end of the meal we were really shocked. We’d been charged 10 yuan each for use of the cutlery – which has been free or only 1/2 yuan throughout the rest of China. We both agreed that we would have preferred that the food would have been more expensive that have to pay that much to use chopsticks and a bowl each!
To add to our unpleasant evening we bought water and Jasmine tea leaves from a little shop nearby – which had really lovely owners- but were trapped inside the shop by a ragged dog! We’d seen lots of stray dogs on our ascent up the mountain so knew that there would be quite a few in the town but this dog was waiting at the door for us to leave. It actually looked like it had rabies… the shop owner had to come and shew it away for us!
The weather also wasn’t helping to make our time in Wutai Shan enjoyable – it was freezing cold! Even inside the hotel room we had to wear our jumpers…