To get to Pingyao, we took an overnight sleeper train which was a bit more comfortable than the hard seater that we travelled on from Beijing to Datong.
All in, the train there took about 7 and a half hours, which wasn’t too bad.
We checked out the Datong hotel and left our bags in the left luggage place and then spent a last day wandering about in Datong. That was quite cool as we found a wee theme park to spend a bit of time in and also found a street market where the locals were doing their shopping.
The market had lots of live and dead things for eating. There were chickens in cages, fish and crabs in tanks along with various other unrecognisable aquatic creatures.
In the end we opted for something that looked like bread – for approx 10p each, it ended up being our dinner (feel free to sing “Hey big spender”).
When we arrived at Pingyao, it was about the back of 6 (am) and we took a taxi to our hostel. Yes, hostel, none of that hotel nonsense for us backpackers.
The town itself is described in the guide books as being a traditional Chinese town. I don’t really know what a traditional Chinese town is but who am I to disagree with the guide books ?
The hostel is located within a 17th century courtyard and the rooms seems pretty old fashioned.
Lucky for us, our room was ready so we got checked in early and got a few hours sleep before it was time to go out and explore our 3rd destination in just over a week.
We were not to be disappointed, the place really is like going back in time. As soon as you leave the main streets, you will see some older folk sitting around by the side of the streets not really doing very much – just watching the people and the day pass by.
You will see the coal truck going round the streets, you will see plenty of dogs who are quite happy to go out for a walk on their own (they might be stray dogs though). The streets are narrow and there’s a lot of stalls setup selling, well everything really.
Some of them have photos of Chairman Mao, next to that might be a tea shop and next to that, there can be a person selling wooden back scratchers. Like so many things in China, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it but we’re not here to find out why things happen, we just observe a lot of things that are so different from what we’r’e used to back home.
At the time of writing this, we’ve not really done very much of the ‘touristy’ things in the town. At the first week of October, there is a national holiday in China so trains, accommodation etc are all pretty tough to find so our first day was taken up with working out how to get to Xi’an and where to stay when we get there.
In ‘phoenix nights’, Brian Potter said “It’s amazing what you can do with a computer and access to t’internet””
Well, it’s even more amazing how difficult things become when you can’t get a proper ‘net connection. Our hostel does have wifi but only at the main reception and for unknown reasons, it seemed to be struggling today. It was very slow and it was regularly disconnecting.
We did notice that the town seemed much busier than it was on the previous day. We later found out that the tourist attraction were open to all without having to pay any fees so it was similar to a visit scotland open day but with way way more people.
The place was so busy that the 1.5km walk to the train station took over an hour – there were cars, bikes, scooters, people, things similar to golf buggies using to transport tourists and the dogs from earlier on all battling for some space on the streets.
Tomorrow, we’re planning to get around and see the tourist sites and some of the anicent buildings within the city to see what all the fuss is about.
Another point on Pingyao is the food. One place in particular was a bit of a rip off as they charged about £2 for a can of coke but we got revenge and gave them a bad review on trip advisor.
We’ve noticed that prices in tourist restaurants do seem to be a bit more expensive. This is usually because they have translations of the meals or at least they have pictures and you point to the picture to order.
I mentioned about travelling with the couple from Liverpool in Datong, the guy recommended learning a few symbols so that you have a vague idea of what you are ordering. This is easier said than done but we’re working on it.
In Pingyao, we found that a lot of the smaller street side cafes with plastic charis were the best ones to eat at. As a lot of places don’t have fridges or freezers so the food can be sitting out in containers on the side of the street but as it’s cooked in a hot wok, it seems to be enough to kill off any bacteria that’s likely to make us unwell.
Some of the translations of food names are also worth a mention too – they made absolutely no sense to us so I’ve copied a few of my favourites below.
“”Egg fried rice dial the bad child””
“”Fry dial the rotten””
“”Speculation is shifting””
“”The cat ear stewed chicken block””
“”Assorted cat ears””