Thursday, April 18, 2013
LEAVING PINGYAO--ON TO TAIYUAN AND DATONG
Gee, we didn’t even have to get an early start this morning! Of course we still woke
early, but we relaxed in our room with a cup of coffee, checked our email, then went for breakfast at our guesthouse restaurant.
We had packed up last night so we were ready and waiting when our driver showed up promptly at 10 am. We walked the couple of short blocks to his van, and we were off!
Good bye Pingyao--what a lovely place.
It was a pretty quick 18 mile drive to our first stop of the day; The Qiao Family Compound. This compound was the home of a wealthy Qiao family, and was built during the Qing Dynasty (1756). It’s a huge walled compound, covering over 2 acres and having 6 large courtyards and 19 smaller courtyards. Architects consider it to be one of the finest remaining examples of private Chinese residences. This compound was also the film site for the 1991 Chinese movie “Raise The Red Lantern”, which won many awards, including “Best Foreign Film”. I watched it (on YouTube) before we left, it’s really a beautiful movie.
Our driver walked us to the ticket office, making sure that we knew to use our passports to get a senior discount! We spent 2 hours enjoying this beautiful and very interesting compound. We were very happy to find that, unlike many of the old buildings in Pingyao, Qiao Compound has not been “over-restored”. There clearly has been some restoration work, especially new walkways and stairs and railings, but most of the residence is in original and beautiful condition. There is also much of the original furniture remaining and many, many of the household items on display. Of course, I really loved all of the architectural details, especially the wonderful doors and the beautiful roof lines. As always, I took way too many photos!
On the way into the compound-these vats are fermenting soy vinegar:
The masses of tour groups--we went the other way to get away! Their loudspeaker wielding tour leaders should be outlawed!
Entrance to one of the many courtyards
Amazing wood detail:
Closeup wood carving
Detail--end of a brick wall. Almost every wall had amazing detail like this
This door is original:
Beautiful carved wood door:
Colorful painted ches:
Embroidered fly swatter!
Tiny shoes, for women with bound feet. Called their "golden lilies", the ideal length was 3". The very painful binding process started when girls were very young.
More golden lily shoes:
Carved and inlaid screen:
Pagoda in the beautiful gardens:
Outside wall around the compound
After we left the compound and walked back to the parking lot, stopping to have a quick bite of lunch. As usual, ordering was a fun experience with the language barrier. We did pretty good, though! We tried a new dish-corn with pine nuts. It wasn’t quite what we expected, and it was very soupy, but it was really delicious!
Sweet corn with pine nuts, one of our favorites
After lunch we walked back to the parking lot, which was a bit like running the gauntlet of vendors! We still had our eyes peeled for a shot glass, Matt, but I don’t think they sell those here! Our driver was waiting for us, and soon we were back on the road towards Taiyuan.
Our next stop of the day was the Jinxi Temple Complex, about 16 miles from Taiyuan. This temple complex and monastery was founded about 600 AD, and although non of the original buildins remain, several from later centuries remain. The oldest remaining hall, The Hall of The Holy Mother, was built in 1032. The grounds were beautifully landscaped, with pretty cherry trees and lilacs in bloom--the fragrance of the lilacs was just wonderful! There are many very old trees that our “labeled” with their age--some of them were centuries old!
Entrance to one of the temple courtyards
Beautiful old trees on the temple grounds:
Dragons twining around the pillars of the main temple:
Tall Pagoda--we couldn't climb to the top--it was being restored
Cherry trees in bloom
We spent over an hour enjoying the interesting temples and beautiful grounds and both agreed that it was a nice relaxing way to end our touring day.
Back in the van, it was about another 30 minutes to Taiyuan. Our driver dropped us off at our hotel, The Shanxi Grand, which is pretty nice but I wouldn’t call it grand!
After we checked in and dropped our bags in our room we went out for a walk, thinking we’d find a nearby restaurant for dinner. We didn’t find any promising restaurants in a 4 block area, so we decided to make it easy and eat at the hotel restaurant. Then we decided we’d make it even easier--we ordered room service! 4 different Chinese dishes, a beer and an ice tea--less than $20!
While we were waiting for our dinner to be delivered, there was a knock on our door (actually, the doors have little chimes). It was a nice young man coming to do our turn down service! He fluffed up our bedding and pillows, tidied up the bathroom and wished us good night! I’m a little disappointed though--no chocolates on our pillows!
We’re now all snuggled in our room, dinner is finished and we’re about ready to call it a night--another one of our early starts tomorrow!
Tomorrow: A morning flight to Datong, where we will drive to the Hanging Monastery, Longman Grottos, and Datong’s 9 dragon screen.