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Chapter one hundred - Pingyao to Beijing

We took the midnight train going anywhere

sunny 24 °C

Day 360: Pingyao, Shanxi to Beijing, China 23/09/2012

Incredible and deflating to think that tonight will be the final journey of the whole trip, with our eight o'clock departure time making for a bit of a nothing day in Pingyao. Where has this year gone? We head out again in the same sort of direction we have taken before and nothing much has changed in this day or so. We even find the same pig asleep in the same position as it was last time we walked through this way. We do, however, find ourselves some new places and new sights to add to the list of the past three hundred odd days, leaving the confines of the city walls and the ancient world and stepping through a portal into a bright, modern part of the city, with a nice water feature. An old man comes to wash his hyperactive, fluffy white dog in the water around the wooden decking walkways, shampooing his pooch before being left stranded as the dog took flight and charged off in any direction it thought necessary. Highly amusing and one made more surreal when the dog jumped back in the water to find it came up only to its knees.

Walking back towards the city gates, we find a two hundred metre red carpet leading up to a twenty foot tall camera found in the middle of a host of international flags. Seems the photography festival we came across was a pretty big deal. We grant several requests for photos and are welcomed to China by a teenage welcoming committee. A bit late but very kind all the same. Walking around the perimeter of the city walls we find ourselves at an open air theatre performance, where a sizeable crowd of locals are gathered to watch an uncomfortably loud and seemingly very violent Chinese rendition of what I guess was Punch and Judy. Fun to watch, but being the only white faces around there is more gawping at us than at the poor actors.

A catch up with the blog and a decent cup of tea before dinner sees us right up to taxi time and we are soon boarding our sleeper carriage. Destination Beijing. A little more uncomfortable than the last train but the ten o'clock lights out rule makes it impossible to see a thing. Not so much fun when sleep doesn't come too easily...

Posted by tevs 12:38 Archived in China Tagged train theatre china beijing pingyao Comments (0)

Chapter ninety nine - Pingyao

Pinged back in time

overcast 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.

Posted by tevs 10:09 Archived in China Tagged history city china ancient photography pingyao Comments (0)

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