Datong is a coal mining town – smokey, hardworking and practical.
In stark contrast to the city’s rough and dirty exterior, quietly sits the Yungang grottoes. In case you need a reminder though of what pays the bills around these parts, a coal refinery sits squatly on the exterior of the cave complex, billowing out its modern-day smoke made from ancient animals.
When you arrive at the cave complex, notice how everything either glistens like new, or is beautifully dull due to its old age.
Once you make it past a weird metal tree, pillars of elephants and a renovated temple, put the modern world behind you and allow yourself to be transported back to 460 AD.
51,000 statues were painstakingly carved here during the 5th and 6th century.
Some are the size of matchbox cars.
Others the size of Semi-trucks.
And some look like ET.
Time has taken its toll, but for being over 1500 years old, these guys are in pretty good shape. Well, this guy definitely is past his prime.
And some are so cool, that they won’t even let you photograph them.
Make sure to check out cave number 5, which holds the largest Buddha in the complex at 17 meters, and 6, which is known as the Indiana Jones cave due to its plethora of Buddhist Angels. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed, but here is a picture of the wooden structure built around them to give you a sense of the scale.
How to get there: Take bus 4 to the end of the line and then cross the road and catch bus 3. It takes about an hour total.
How much does it cost: It’s a bit steep at 150 Yuan, but its worth it.
What are the opening hours: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm