Pingyao - a break from the city

Trip Start Jun 29, 2008
Trip End Dec 23, 2008

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Flag of China  , Shanxi,
Friday, August 1, 2008

Our first night train - from Beijing to Pingyao. This was most definitely an experience. We were in a hard sleeper carriage, basically a long corridor - down the left were 3 high bunk beds about a foot apart and along the right were folding single seats. The carriage was full and we were the only Western people on there. We had 2 bottom bunks (the most expensive) next to each other and were surrounded by people who were amazed to see westerners and one lady who liked to sit on Carl's bed. They seem to buy the cheaper tickets for the higher bunks then spend most of their time sat on the bottom bunk!! How rude!!  It was not a great nights sleep to say the least although we did manage a couple of hours as we were exhausted...and by the time we got off the toilets (holes in the ground) were unusable.

We arrive in Pingyao about 7.30am to a barrage of people trying to give us a lift to our accommodation (even though they cannot read where we are going they will take us somewhere!) Oh no we (Carl) knows best and set off for the walk to our hostel. An hour of walking later we (Carl) admits defeat and get a ride on a locals bike for  2 yuan to our street and then he has the cheek to try and get 10 yuan off us!! After a couple of swear words are exchanged we walk off and find our hostel. Our hostel was very nice and we celebrate finding it with a full English fry-up!!

Pingyao is one of the best preserved ancient walled city's in China. It is one of the rare places in China where you can find an insight into Various aspects of imperial China.

After a couple of hours sleep in the worlds biggest bed and a very well needed shower we head out to explore! The streets are cobbled and dusty and we find that once again we are a novelty - and get a lot of people pointing and chatting to us in Chinese (hopefully saying good stuff) all very friendly and smiley. We buy a couple of bits from the locals - using our best bargaining skill although we walk away knowing we are still being ripped off!

We have lunch in a small, empty restaurant. Never a good sign if somewhere is empty but we put it down to the time of day. We order a chicken dish and some rice and hope for the best. The 'chicken' arrived and we still think that it was actually gammon but not sure what we are eating we fill up on rice and quickly pay the bill!

The rest of the evening we spend chilling at the hostel where the staff enjoy practicing their English on us.

The next day (Tuesday) we have to check out of our room by noon then have to wait until 1.20 am to get our next night train. In the time we have to wait we decide against visiting the sights of Pingyao as the only option was to buy a 3 day ticket to visit everything - it was not possible to buy a single entry for any of the buildings or temples. Again we stay in our hostel where we spent a lot of the time with Stary - a 23 year old who works at the hostel. We find out he earns 1000 yuan per month which is roughly 80-90 pounds. Although this is not much he uses this as an opportunity to learn and practice English on the visitors. His dream is to work in a big city selling product to tourists and to make lots of money doing this. His English was excellent and he had a great knowledge of history - although his pool skills could do with some attention!

After a very long day and about a million games of shithead, at about 12.30am we have a local take us to the train station. Oh my God we were on the back of this cart holding onto our bags for dear life! I though he was leading us to our death but Carl had faith and even thought it was 'fun'!

Once at the train station we wait about an hour then get on the hottest train in the world, find our beds and within minutes we are asleep, and pretty much sleep until we arrive in Xian at 10.30 then next day.
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