Monday, April 15, 2013


Sunday morning was another early morning for us, we left our hotel in Xi’an at 6:45 for the one hour drive to the airport.  
On the way to Xi'an airport--pretty smoggy this morning!

Once again, we were plenty early, so we found a small cafe serving breakfast.  The menu was definintely Chinese, we ordered a big bowl of noodle soup to share.  Coffee, too of course.

Noodles for breakfast--we skipped the pickled cabbage on the side:

Sleep Box at Xi'an Airport

The Xi’an airport is very nice--new, clean and shiny bright!  We checked in, and before they gave us our boarding passes they asked us to accompany them to a security area.  Hmmmmm--I wondered.  As it turns out, they saw something that concerned them in David’s suitcase and asked us to open it.  We never could quite figure out what it was that worried them, but they seemed satisfied after we unpacked it for them.  They take security very seriously, which is OK with us!  They gave us our boarding passes, and we proceeded through security without anymore issues.  

We relaxed at our gate until it was time to board our flight.  Today’s airport experience wasn’t quite the same frantic scene as Wednesdays, but there were still some pretty aggressive moves!

It was a short flight to Taiyuan, and we picked up our luggage and saw our driver holding a sign with our name on it.  Her was a very nice gentleman and a careful driver, but spoke no English, so not much conversation on the way to Pingyao!

It was a 1 1/2 hour drive through some pretty countryside.  We drove through miles and miles of apple orchards in full bloom.  The air was very bad today, I think equal parts pollution and dust storm.

Near the Taiyuan airport, new apartment buildings and pretty cherry trees:

A little about Pingyao (taken directly from Wikipedia):

During the Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was a financial centre of China. Its history dates back 2,700 years, and is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the known world. It is still inhabited by 50,000 residents and is renowned for its well-preserved ancient city wall, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We turned off the main highway and drove about 8 miles on a small secondary road into Pingyao.  The wall is pretty impressive!  After driving through the wall, into the old city, he went a few short winding blocks and parked the van. He took our luggage out and waited for us to get out.  We looked around the street, and thought:  “Oh my, what have we gotten ourselves into?”  It was an awful looking street, dirty, very scruffy and dilapidated.  

He indicated we should follow him, so we did; I was thinking I might as well follow him--it can’t get much worse.  We were both very relieved when he turned onto a much nicer street--whew!  As it turns out, no cars are allowed into the main part of the old city, and that’s why we had to park and walk.

We are beyond thrilled with our little guesthouse!  It is in a lovely old courtyard home, our room is set back through a maze of pretty walkways.  We have our own little sitting area right outside our door, and our room has a “kang”--which is a traditional Chinese style bed.  I think the mattress might even be a teeny, tiny bit soft! (We haven’t had a decent bed since we left home!)

Passageway to our room:

Big courtyard in our guesthouse:

Here we are, our new "home" for three days:

We even have our own guard lions at our door!

Our kang bed

BIG bathroom: 

As soon as we check in and unpacked just a bit, we headed straight for the small restaurant right in our guesthouse for some lunch and a cold beer.  It’s very warm here--about 85 today, and supposed to be 90 tomorrow!

We had a nice lunch of stir fried lettuce--yes, romaine lettuce! It was delicious!  We also shared some steamed dumplings, and each drank a cold beer.  When we finished our sweet young waitress brought me a tall glass of frothy apple juice, which was really good and refreshing.  She brought David a very good cappuccino.  No charge, just a little treat!

After our lunch we headed right out to explore this fascinating little town.  Pingyao is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is reportedly the best preserved walled city in the world.  Unfortunately, everyone now wants to visit Pingyao, so naturally the local residents have set up shop along a couple of main streets, selling the usual souvenirs and junque.  The architecture on these streets is still very interesting to look at, so we strolled along and checked things out.  

Main street, Pingyao:

It didn’t take us too long to tire of the junk, so we walked on towards the main gate of the wall, thinking we’d climb the steps to the top.  But we found out we’d have to pay, so decided to wait until tomorrow and walk all the way around the top.

We wandered along, turning down a small street and away from the central area.  We really enjoyed exploring those back lanes--peeking into open courtyards, admiring the old buildings, and saying hello to the friendly locals.  So many smiles and “nee-hows”!  I think we’re a bit of a novelty item--there are many, many other tourists, but 99.9% are Asian.
We walked around the back streets for a couple of hours, then turned back in the direction of our hotel. 

Sweet old couple, deep in conversation:

Looking into the wall entrance:

Pagoda style building on the wall:

The Pingyao city wall:

Entrance arch to an older area of Pingyao:

Small entrance gate on the wall

A peek into a courtyard:

Narrow lane, old Pingyao

Beautiful old roofline with wooden carving:

Looking through a doorway:

We came across this old Catholic church, but the gates were locked.  Looking through the gate:

Wide load on the road!

Narrow street:

Working donkey and cart.  We're pretty sure (judging by the "aroma") that he was hauling honey buckets!  For the non-Alaskans reading this--that's buckets of human waste!

 A quick change up, and we went back out to find a place for dinner.  We found a nice place with an interesting menu just a few doors down from our hotel.  We were lucky to be seated in a pretty courtyard area, and we had a yummy dinner of stir fired wild green beans, cashew chicken and a local specialty, Pingyao steamed noodles.  Every dish was delicious! 

Pingyao steamed noodles:

Cashew chicken--a little spicy but delicious

Really good green beans:

 David's getting pretty good with chopsticks!

Main street at night:

                                                                                                                                                                   We’re back at our guesthouse now, sitting in our cozy courtyard enjoying the warm evening air.  Good night from lovely Pingyao!

Tomorrow:  We’ll explore more of this wonderful town, and walk around the wall.

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