Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Monday in Pingyao

We wanted to get an early start this morning so we could walk along the top of the city wall before it got too hot.  The forecast was for 90* today!

We had a small breakfast at our guesthouse cafe, then headed right out to walk to one of the main gates with stairs up the wall.  First we had to buy our “Pingyao Pass” which would allow us to go up on the wall, as well as visit several other attractions in Pingyao.  We even got a senior discount for being over 60--but had to show our passports to prove it.

Lovely EMPTY street, early morning, Pingyao

Steps up to the wall

About the time we got to the wall the tour groups arrived in mass, so we decided to walk the opposite direction.  We didn’t get very far before we found a gate--the wall wasn’t open all the way around.  We walked back the other way, through those big tour groups, and then pretty much had the wall to ourselves--guess the tours don’t walk around the wall!  We enjoyed the nice views from the wall down into old Pingyao and stopped to take lots of pictures.  We walked and walked, and only met one other couple!  

Looking down into old houses:

City side (inside) of the wall

Funny guy sitting  on the wall, he was selling photos:

Pagoda like building at the main entry gate:

I like the brick detail on the top of this building

Restored courtyard home

Original old construction:

Guard tower on the wall

 Here we are, on the wall:

David, on the wall:

Looking over old Pingyao from the wall:

Guard tower on the wall:

A nice young lady at our guesthouse had given us a map, and marked on it which gates were “up” gates, and which were “down” gates.  About half way around the wall we decided to get off the wall, so we consulted our map, found the next “down” exit, and also found a sign on the wall pointing to that exit.  When we got to stairs they were locked with an iron gate, and we couldn’t get down!  We ended up walking a looooong ways extra to get off the wall, and we were hot, tired and thirsty(and maybe a little frustrated!) by the time we were back “on the ground”!  We stopped for a snack and cold drink at the first place we saw and rested our weary legs for a little bit.

David, enjoying a cold beer after we FINALLY got off that wall!

We decided we’d spend the rest of our day checking out the many sights and attractions covered by our Pingyao Pass.  They sounded very interesting.  We found the first one, scanned our ticket and walked in.  This one was an old courtyard home with several displays about everyday life in Pingyao.  We appreciated some of the written information given, but we are finding that in an attempt to restore many of their cultural treasures the Chinese have actually “over-restored” them, with the end result looking like something from Disneyworld.  I certainly don’t want to be critical, but it’s a shame.  We did check out a couple of other sights and some temples--but found much the same situation there.  We did enjoy the old architecture, but again the “forced” vignettes and displays were not at all authentic or interesting to us.

Courtyard scene

Old nine dragon screen--original tile

Catholic Church was open today, so we went in to take a look:

Pagoda with Virgin Mary statue

Interior--sweet, simple and a little shabby

Pretty gothic style windows

Front doors to the church, still decorated for Chinese New Year.  I LOVE the many layers of peeling green paint:

We stopped for a little snack and cold beer (it’s hot here today!) then explored some side streets away from the central area--much more to our liking.  Just like yesterday we had some lovely encounters with the locals, took some fun photos and had a great time looking at the REAL old Pingyao!

Looking down a side street, Pingyao

Cute little boy, all dressed up.  His mom was so proud to have his picture taken. (And no--he doesn't have a diaper on-just a pair of those Chinese  split-crotch training pants!)

Back street scene, Pingyao

We did have a very interesting day in one respect--we seemed to be a big novelty here in Pingyao!  We had at least 6 people stop and take our picture--and that’s just the ones we noticed and/or interacted with!  There seem to be many more tour groups here today, we think many of them are Japanese, and for some reason they are quite interested in us.   When one man with a VERY big camera pointed it at us while we were eating lunch I smiled and waved, then picked up my camera and snapped a photo of him taking a photo of us!   I guess “turnabout is fair play”--usually I’m the one taking the photos.  It doesn’t bother us at all, we just find it amusing.

I'm a star!

We did a little souvenir shopping (very little) then relaxed for a while with another cold drink (Coke Zero if you must know!).  We had a lovely conversation with a sweet young waitress at our guesthouse restaurant--her English is excellent.  We talked about the differences in how we live, she asked where we lived, and was especially curious about our house.  She said that in Pingyao several families live in one courtyard home and most families have only one room for their whole family!  She said that in China for a family to have many rooms like we do they would be very rich.  We assured her that we weren’t at all “rich”! (or related to the Rockefellers, either!)

Dinner tonight was at a small restaurant near our guesthouse, where the service was a little “spotty” but the food was good.  Our waitress brought us menus, and as soon as we’d ordered she came back with a big plastic cover for the cloth tablecloth already on the table.  I’m sure she was thinking “those Americans sure are clumsy with chopsticks”--and she would be right!

We tried all new dishes tonight, some “hits” and some “misses”.  We ordered stirfried sorghum noodles and they were delicious, as was the stir fried romaine lettuce in oyster sauce.  I’ll be fixing some stir fried lettuce when we get home!  We also tried some steamed yam balls--they were just OK.  They had a very faint taste of yams and the dipping sauce was just too oily.  Our other dish was a dry fried beef and vegetables served with steamed corn buns.  We really liked the beef and vegetables, but the steamed corn buns had a strange “off” taste.

Steamed yam balls

Dry fried beef and vegetables with steamed corn buns

Stir fried romaine lettuce

We’re now back in our lovely room in our courtyard guesthouse, trying to get a decent internet connection. 

Tomorrow we leave Pingyao to drive to Taiyuan, stopping along the way to visit a very old, large family compound and also an old temple. 

Goodnight from Pingyao!

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