Datong is a city that has wowed me in many ways: cleanliness, great air quality, public spaces, the nice people. I am shocked at how much I enjoyed a Tier 4 city as I did not care for some Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities that I had visited. In China, Tier 1 (Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Tianjin) & Tier 2 (Nanjing, Hangzhou) are clearly defined but Tier 3 & Tier 4 are where it gets murky. The way I see it is this if a city has two subway lines, it is a Tier 3. 1 subway line or less, Tier 4. Datong has none and probably won’t for the next twenty years. But it is a good thing as it really doesn’t need it. There isn’t even a rush hour yet.
What impressed me the most was The Datong Museum. Equal in my opinion to The Guggenheim and MOMA. It is better than the museums in Shanghai some of which are world class. And eons ahead of Hong Kong which has some of the most substandard museums I have ever seen for a city of its size. But the most amazing thing about the museum is that is almost empty. And free! Only the second museum that I have come across in China that is free.
Grand hall with nobody. More security guards than tourists. Most domestic Chinese tourists are not interested in museums. They did no get much schooling and most don’t care to learn about real Chinese History. Most people are not aware of the fact that before the Communists simplified the Chinese characters, literacy was less than 20%. My maternal grandfather has a 3rd grade education level. My maternal grandmother is illiterate. My mother and her four siblings only graduated middle school. My cousins on my maternal side graduated from vocational high schools which is similar to trade schools. None of them care for museums and prefer to watch TV.
Every exhibit was artfully presented.
Tours are conducted by knowledge guides provided by the museum. Notice the bluetooth headpiece. No megaphones blaring here.
Across from the Datong museum there were four other giant buildings in various stages of completion. This building is almost complete and it is supposedly The Datong Grand Theater.
After spending several hours at the museum G and I went to tackle the Datong City Wall. Entrance Fee is 35rmb($6USD).
After climbing the stairs the entire city of Datong is laid out in front of you. The city wall is 90% complete though only 70% of the wall is open. G and I walked for almost two hours and we did not cover the 70%. But we took lots of pictures and simply enjoyed the view. It is extremely rare to tour a tourist attraction in China that is empty of visitors!
There is also a moat that will encircle the finished wall. Within the walls is the old Datong City, outside of it is the newly built residential areas. Rumor has it that all the buildings within the walls will be rebuilt according to Ming Dynasty Architecture. I wanted to stay on the wall longer but it was extremely cold and windy even during daylight.
And we went to eat malatang aka lazy people hot pot. The kind where you pick whatever ingredients you like and the restaurant cooks it for you. I had eaten here the night before after the terrible food at Fenglin Ge. Truth to be told there are not that many restaurants to choose from in Datong. Lots of shopping but few restaurants. Mostly food carts where people eat standing in the cold.
Hygiene standards and customer service in China has improved by leaps and bounds. Chopsticks are sanitized now and food servers all wear mouth guards in the newly opened restaurants that cater to the 18-50 crowd. This restaurant in particular had the best service I have ever received anywhere in the world! I was shocked when a server who was standing by the door offered to hold G’s shopping bag so that G can put on his coat. Dinner here was also less than $10USD for both G and I. And the food was delicious, much much better than any other mala tang restaurant I have eaten at (I have had lots. Mala tang is one of my favorite one dish meals).