Soft Sleeper for Light Sleeping Passengers. A Moving Farewell. Travel Agent Drama.
09.11.2012 3 °C
Etta decided that while she was in Beijing, we should take a side trip to Datong. She's an absolute sucker for grottoes. So she booked the 6 Days Travel from Datong to Pingyao and Taiyuan trip with TCT. This is the itinerary on their website (since link on web site has a way of disappearing when they decide to remove this tour package, for example. To prevent this disappearing act, you could look at the itinerary here if the link is no longer available).
Checked out of Fraser Suites today, and caught a train @ 10:55pm for Datong. We caught a CRH's K-train (you can check out the types of HSR train in China here) In China, this is a slow train (in Australia, a very fast one). These trains all start with a letter 'K' (short for "Kuai"="Fast"). There're 3 classes to the K-train: Soft Sleeper, Hard Sleeper, and seats. We booked for 2 Soft Sleeper tickets, giving us an upper and lower bunk with thick mattresses for lying down. For a 6 hours trip, we want to travel in comfort. And it's not like we can't afford it. The 2 tickets cost ¥310 (we booked it through a ticket office near Fraser Suites. The booking fee is ¥5). There’re 4 bunks to each compartment/cabin. If we have fat wallets, and/or insist on privacy, we could pay for all 4 bunks, and have the compartment all by ourselves.
In this occasion, we shared the compartment with an elderly couple, whom had a grandson sending them off, running along the train on the platform, waving as the train sped away. Yeah, it’s a very moving scene, if you know what I mean. They were as quiet as a couple of church mice. In fact, they didn't speak, they whispered.
When we boarded the train, it started to drizzle. And by the time the train pulled to its 1st station of Sacheng (“Sand Town”), it was sleeting. I.e. the rain looked like snow, but only water on the ground could be seen. After 2:30pm, it snowed moderately outside our window. There were about 5mm of snow on the ground. By the time we reached Datong, there was no snowing, but the ground was bone dry with about 1/2 inch of accumulated snow.
Datong has similar latitude as Beijing, because of higher altitude - about 1000m higher than Beijing -Datong started snow in September, and considerably colder than Beijing, which usually snows in December. According to the old man in our compartment, who's a Datong local going hone, told me that there was one year when Datong snowed in Jun.
The tour package included transfer from the train station to the hotel.
When we arrived at the hotel, we had the 1st of several mini-drama with them. In our email correspondence, our agreed deluxe hotel was Howard Johnson International. But when we were dropped off at the Holiday Inn, Etta was less than impressed (I'm not so cheesed off because she did the hotel booking and I knew very little about the hotels). Etta was under the impression that Howard Johnson is of higher standard than Holiday Inn (after all, she has been working in the hospitality industry for more than a decade).
After several calls to the office, the guide told us that they couldn't book Howard Johnson for us, so we had to make do with Holiday Inn. They assured us that the 2 hotels are of similar standards. Etta wasn't impressed with the explanation as she had booked this t
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