Monday, December 1, 2008


So Matt and I spent two lovely days in the Shanxi province town of Pingyao.  It's actually a UNESCO world heritage site now.  The city had no money to modernize, so it's still largely the same as it was in the Qing dynasty with grey Chinese-looking roofs, courtyard homes and offices, and cute little doorways (I have a thing with Chinese doorways.  They're always so exciting, because you never know what you'll see).  We took the night train to and from, hard sleeper.  There were three bunk on top of each other and no door separating compartments, but it was surprisingly nice.  Chinese night-train riders are a lot quieter than their European counterparts.  We wanted to do cup ramen on the train like everyone else, but didn't.   

We got picked up at the train station by a funny little motorbike with covered sitting cart in the back and rode through narrow city streets in the dawn.  Our hostel was great and the people all very helpful.  There was a great little courtyard in the middle and a pool table.  It was good that the hostel was nice because shortly after we arrived, Matt got a case of China tummy ills.  I fed him a lot of street food in the days before and am very bad a knowing when things are sketchy or not.  Sketchy things in China just don't phase me any more, I guess.  Anyway, Matt feasted on crackers and Sprite for the next two days, though it did grant us the opportunity to try many kinds of Chinese packaged crackers. 

When Matt was feeling up for it, we wandered around the town looking at old courtyard offices, temples, city walls, and tourist shops.  It was strange to be one of the only Westerners in town, as the place was pretty deserted for the off-season.  It seemed like people were always trying to proposition us with, "Hello. . . hello. . . look!" Eventually whenever we heard to word "hello" we just turned away and started walking fast.  

Also, all the restaurants were pretty deserted, so there was a peek-a-boo effect whenever you'd walk by and someone would pop and and try to get you to come in.  We ate, ironically, in a Catholic guesthouse.  I guess it's more accurate to say I ate and Matt partook of the tea.  Anyways the food was actually quite good there and the Shanxi specialty is noodles of every shape and make.  I like getting noodles from random street vendors, but again, probably not very safe. 

It was really nice to spend some time away from Beijing where things were less hectic and the crowds were few and far between.  I think Pingyao may be one of my favorite places in China so far, though I may be biased by the excellent company I had.  

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