Pingyao and Luoyang

Trip Start Sep 18, 2004
Trip End Jun 05, 2005

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Written by Nelly

We'll post pictures as soon as we can find a USB port. Sorry.

Yet another perspective
We left Datong on the night of the 12th, taking an evening train to Pingyao. This time we got the soft sleeper beds. The soft sleepers are four beds in a room, and it's a real room with a door! We shared our room with a young man. I chatted with him well into the night. He is the first person that I have met that is very unhappy with this country. He told me that if you are a head in some sort of government agency, may it be the vice chairman of sanitary unit in some booney town, or the mayor of some city, the government will provide you a car, and they tend to be fancy black Audi A6/A8 and Passat. Sometimes they even come with a chauffeur!

What's in Pingyao?
Pingyao is one of the best preserved town in China, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site a few years ago. We were worried that Pingyao was going to be super touristy and commercial. It was indeed touristy, but not every household was a tourist trap. Despite being a UNESCO site, you still see trash piled up on the side of the city wall, roosters picking through the trash, and public toilets that bring on waves of nausea. You can also see men with their donkey carts transporting coal. This is all amidst the pretty court yards and beautiful, ancient architecture in the town. This town is where the movie, "Raise The Red Lantern" was filmed. Overall it's just a very nice place to relax. We met quite a few travellers staying at the same hotel as us in Pingyao and had a good time with them.

Does your bread taste like asphalt?
In both Datong and Pingyao, we saw farmers spreading wheat on the roads and highways. Cars and trucks driving down the road will drive right over the wheat. Apparently, this is how they shell the wheat. After the wheat has been crushed enough, they sweep up the kernels!

Hard Sleeper is not what we think it is.
Last night, we took a hard sleeper from Pingyao to Luoyang. Since we had taken the hard sleeper from Hong Kong to Shanghai, we thought "oh no big deal". Well, apparently not all hard sleepers are equal. The previous hard sleeper we took was sort of a room without a door. On this hard sleeper, it's just rows and rows of beds. It was such a shock to us. Now there really isn't any privacy, and if you are tall (luckily neither of us are) your legs will be hanging off the bed into the hallway. It's a good thing most people don't have stinky feet on the train. On the hard sleeper to Shanghai, every bunk has a private light. Well, that's not the case here. You barely get any light, and they turned off all lights at 10:00 pm sharp with little warning.

The train ride
When we got on the train, some dude was sleeping on one of our beds, luckily he wasn't drooling or anything. As usual, people talked and talked on the train, even after they turned off the lights. You know it's bad news when they sell a 650 ml of beer for 2.5 RMB($0.30 USD) on the train. Water is more expensive than beer! The bunk next to us was having a good time, of course, they immediatly fell silent when Jesse walked past them. One of the men there was a police officer, and his friend joked, "Hey, Mr. Police Officer, why are you running away when you see a foreigner?"

The hotel purchased the train tickets for us and as it turned out our tickets were not going to Luoyang, but some small station 11 Km away from Luoyang. We arrived at an ungodly hour, 3:20 am in the morning, at the wrong train station. The worse thing is that I lost our hotel reservation, so I didn't even remember which hotel we were going to. Amazingly, the only other person who was getting off at the same train station was in our unit of beds. He was so kind and helped us get a cab so we didn't get the foreigner's price. I guess all backpackers stay at this cheap hotel so the taxi driver knew exactly which hotel I had reserved even though I don't remember the name.

People outside of Beijing are much nicer.
Since we left Beijing, we have noticed that people are much nicer and friendlier. They are more helpful and more likely to give you a smile instead of a sour face. For example, Jesse and I are in quest of a good peeler so that we can have some nice fruit. The peeler we bought in Beijing for 2 yuan was bent after peeling one apple and the blade was not even sharp. I think I'll get carpotunnel from using the peeler too long. Today we had some tea at a stall in a temple in Luoyang. The tea shop lady loaned us a peeler to peel some apples. While it's not like the peeler I have at home, it's the best peeler we've used in China! We asked the lady where to get the peeler, and she said we can have it. So now our quest to find a good peeler is finally over after 20 days in China.

What Next?
We'll be Luoyang for another day and head to Xian on Sunday.
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Mary McDonald on

Funny, I just got back from Beijing. I am missing it already. The hostel we stayed at was amazing. Staff and all the people we met in Beijing, friendly and kind. Based on that experience we are seriously thinking of going back to China and plotting a course to see lots more.

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