So today was the day that my adventures in Beijing drew to a close and a new chapter in my travel story began to unfold. I began the day with a full English breakfast (well, the Chinese version anyway but it was very nice anyway!) and after picking up my roughly washed laundry (I couldn't have put more creases in my clothes if I purposefully tried to but it didn't bother me, I just wondered what they'd actually done to them to get them looking like they did) I said goodbye to Jeff and the English guys then made my way across town to the bus station.
I made it there with minutes to spare before my bus left and after boarding and finding my seat, I got chatting to the woman sat next to me who was here on holiday from Kuala Lumpur. She spoke perfect English and we chatted for a while but I was pretty tired still so I slept for a while and awoke in the middle of the desert with mountains all around me. We passed town after town of mud brick houses, fields of crops and huge wind farms and after a couple more hours we finally arrived in Datong.
Now to say that it looked a bit rough and ready was an understatement. In recent years the government has demolished all of the old town and has replaced what was there with now crumbling, soviet style high rises which don't look very inviting. In true Chinese style though they have now decided that they were wrong to get rid of the old town and are now rebuilding the whole thing from scratch. (where the logic is in that I have no idea but hey) We pulled in at what was called a bus station but which was actually a patch of dirt on the outskirts of town and I jumped into the nearest waiting taxi and asked to be taken to a hotel that I had seen recommended on another travel blog.
On arriving at the hotel it looked very rundown and after being shown a couple of rooms I decided to try somewhere else so I chose a hotel which was rated as the number one choice in my LP guidebook (Tong Tie Hotel). When we got there it looked a bit better from the outside and the first room that I was shown looked ok after a brief inspection so I paid for two nights and went up to relax for a while. On closer inspection however, everything was broken and dirty, there was a huge pile of coal outside my window which I could smell quite strongly after the door had been closed for a while and there were random stains everywhere.
I went downstairs and asked nicely if I could please look at another room but the staff didn't want to know. After they had dealt with about twenty other people who came in after I had started speaking with them, they showed me another room and my god, I wouldn't have stayed in it if they had paid me to. Picture a damp smelling, dark room with one blue/white flickering bulb hanging from the ceiling and in which pretty much everything looked dangerously broken and you should have an idea of what it was like. (you can't imagine the smell though, it was horrible)
I think they keep that room to show anyone has second thoughts about their original room being bad and after a millisecond of thinking about it, I decided to keep my original room. I did ask the lady who showed me the room if there were any more rooms free as I could see from their computer screen behind the desk that they had lots free, but she told me (in perfect English) that there weren't any and when I mentioned having noticed the free rooms on their PC, she said "No understand English, sorry"...of course not.
I gave up on the idea of getting a better room and spent the evening in bed planning the next two days so that I wouldn't have to spend any more time in my room apart from when I was asleep. I was fully clothed in bed as the AC was broken and would only blow cold which isn't very good when it's below freezing at night but after a long day of being on the go I managed to fall asleep quite quickly once I had finished my planning, ready for a 6am start and lots of exploring the next day.