On paper, the city of Datong is a terrible place. It’s colder and drier than Beijing, and not to mention more polluted thanks in part to the province’s abundance of infamously dangerous coal mines.

Hence, our program decided to take us to Datong for the weekend. Despite the above billing, Datong did have it’s bright spots, albeit all located at least an hour from where we were staying in the city. I’m thoroughly sick of temples in China after having spent 3 years here, but the Hanging Temple managed to change it up a bit and keep me terrified enough to be interested. About the only other thing that will get me interested in a temple is increasingly large Buddha’s, which the Yungang Grottoes had plenty of. It’s too bad the giant Buddha arms race between temples ended like 100 years ago.

Mix all that in with some rather boring temples, a pretty boring mountain and a pretty boring city. We rode a bus almost 6 hours each way, rose at 7 am or earlier and battled old taitais for baozi at the small breakfast buffet. I guess it was all in the name of program bonding, so no foul there.

For pictures of all that, go to my instagram.

I returned thoroughly exhausted. The program thankfully gave us the day off today (Monday) to recover. That meant time for more interviews for a freelance story I’m working on. It’s my first story for the publication, so I won’t say more about it as not to jinx it. I am gearing up for a separate project and continuing to drill into SEC docs for Footnoted.com.

There seems to be no lack of freelance work in Beijing. I’ll be hunkering down through mid-November when things will finally lighten up again. It will be totally worth it though, as the proceeds will fund even better vacations than Datong.

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