Goodbye Beijing, Hello Pingyao
We thoroughly enjoyed Beijing, it was far more relaxing than we thought it would be, and the various sights we saw and experienced were amazing; especially the Summer Palace and climbing a small part of the Great Wall of China. So now we are moving on - to the Ancient City of Pingyao.
Our first Chinese bullet train zooming at 297 km per hour, took us a smooth four hours to travel from Beijing to Pingyao. The time passed by quickly, reading and watching the world go by, seeing expanding cities with sky rise blocks growing on the skyline, hundreds of newly planted tree saplings, and undulating landscape with deep ravines which looked manmade rather than from roaring rivers.
The new Pingyao train station is 7km out from the centre. We hopped on a bus, driving down recently built wide carriageways with little traffic. We did see a flock of sheep crossing over the zebra crossing! At last, we reached the Ancient City of Pingyao, believed to have been built about 2,800 years ago and with the best-preserved county walls in China.
We walked through the North Gate, down cobbled streets and alleyways and reached our Guest House for the next three nights, with our host Li waiting outside to meet us. We have found a gem. A beautiful traditional building, young for the city built 120 years ago, with rooms off the courtyard cossetted in a padded blanket to keep the cold out. Li gave us a map of the city, circled certain places for us to visit and explained that we could buy a ticket for ¥125 for the duration of our trip, which allowed us to climb onto the city wall and visit 18 various temples and museums here. Great, that’s our two days planned then.
Later we set out to find a restaurant. The visual atmosphere was magical, with red lanterns lighting up the old wooden buildings in the smoggy lanes. We felt excited, looking forward to exploring this fascinating place, full of history and preserved, unlike many areas that had been demolished by various Chinese enemies. The smell was not so magical; we could taste the pollution in the air even though the main transport within the walls were electric bikes and small blue carts zooming along the lanes carrying tourists around.
We found our recommended restaurant; it was buzzing with visitors, mainly Chinese families, enjoying time together. Our waitress was a delight and taught us how to say 1 to 10; I even recorded her. Our food of fried aubergine, spicy cauliflower and noodles were delicious.
Our host Li suggested that we went down to the South Gate at 8 pm. We were a bit late and could see the crowd walking towards us. When we got there, we managed to capture the end of a light show, turning the sky into a Northern Lights lookalike spectacle — a great start to Pingyao.