Pinged back in time
20.09.2012 - 23.09.2012 19 °C
Day 357: Pingyao, Shanxi, China 20/09/2012
A nice sociable start today, catching a cab around eightish for the bus station and enjoying the fact that the upcoming journey is short haul and not some behemoth overnight monstrous jaunt. After stopping briefly for a pot noodle and after a welcome afternoon nap, the journey comes to a bizarre end as we are unceremoniously kicked out at the side of the road to helpful shouts of 'Pingyao! Pingyao!' So, abandoned at the side of the road with not a taxi in sight, we are approached by an old man who starts to negotiate a price. Hmmm, strange we think. Stranger still as we speak to the man in a 'Police' uniform, who is professionally sat in the back of a car with a young woman. Points at old man when asked about a taxi and promptly winds up the window.
Five minutes later we hop out of the old man's car in the middle of an ancient Chinese city. With such a remarkable journey back in time, we pay Doc Brown and find our way to the hostel. Check into the old style building centred around a courtyard, which is nice but perhaps not quite worthy of the seriously overinflated reviews it gets in the Lonely Planet and Hostelbookers. We go for a quick walk and a nice little drink, with Gemma receiving a nice straight shot of Pimms. Find an amazing little cafe for tea and have an early night.
Day 358: Pingyao, Shanxi, China 21/09/2012
The hostel's beanbag pillows allow for a surprisingly good night's sleep and we enjoy a slow morning before heading out for the day. Despite the vast swathes of tourists, Pingyao is a quaint and interesting town, rendering images of a China that existed three thousand years ago. Narrow alleyways, traditional industries and hanging red lamps juxtapose the bars and restaurants advertising their free wi-fi services for patrons and the thousands of people with huge digital cameras.
Pingyao proves to be quite a small town all in all, so we take it steady for the afternoon, watching noodles being pulled and flung into pans, sweets being made and shawls being woven on looms. Gem feels a little unwell so we head back to the hostel, where we enjoy a few games of cards and are befriended by Ken, an ageing hippy who has been, seen and done just about anything you could ever mention. Back for dinner at the excellent place we discovered yesterday evening. Friday night so a few beers makes trips to the worst toilet of the trip more than a little funny.
Day 359: Pingyao, Shanxi, China 22/09/2012
Another quiet morning and a brief lie in before a distinctly average lunch at the overrated hostel then out and about again with the thousands of extra tourists that have found themselves at a loose end this weekend. So, we try to see some more of the picturesque little town and stumble upon the 'real life' parts of the town, with hundreds of homes and factories situated within the ancient walls of the city. The huge number of people we have seen around town with huge cameras and massive lenses are suddenly explained by the pretty serious looking photography festival we find ourselves at. Our small camera is sneered at by the throngs of proper camera users. We particularly enjoy the exhibition of British rock over the past fifty years.
Back to the hostel, for a few more of games of cards and to be cornered by Ken the Hippy once more. After hearing an account of just how many lives he's saved and how he deals with the constant queue for his photo by the Chinese masses. We manage to wriggle free and get out for another fantastic dinner at the place we have found, being greeted like old friends by the staff before we realise that we have been sat outside in the relative cold when there was a nice warm indoor part to the restaurant.