We had never heard of Pingyao but while having a coffee in Starbucks in Shenzhen we came across an article about this little (in Chinese terms ), old town of Pingao . Immediatly we were drawn to visit this place which being honest we needed to see for some traditional chinese submersion . China today is nothing like the mystical images you get from “Raise the Red Lantern “ and is basically one huge city rolling into the next so the idea of somewhere still romantically linked to China past was enticing enough for us . We were lucky that it was on our route from Xi’an to Beijing so no major amendments to our schedule had to be made and it has been our favorite Chinese stop to date .
We fell off the overnight train from Xi’an in a blur having been woken 5 minutes before the train was due to stop. The sleep on the night trains is always fitful and then when they stop it is only for the briefest moment to allow normal passengers off, which for us, not being normal passengers is at the best of times an ordeal, then the usual baggage chaos ensues. It was about 6am and there were only a couple of state rail employees on the platform, who fell about laughing when they saw us trying to extricate ourselves and our baggage from the carriage. We just about managed to get off before the train took off and then suddenly realised we had left behind Elka’s travel cot. This was now the second one we had managed to lose, having left one previously on the roadside behind us somewhere in the middle east whilst boarding a bus.
We then had to relay the baggage to get out of the station with the state employess looking gleefully on. Once out of the station we were greeted by the usual bunch of taxi and rickshaw drivers waiting hopefully for someone like me to mug. Anyway today wasn’t going to be their day as we had taken up the hotel on their offer to pick us up.
It had to be the rickshaws though and as usual with us it was x 2. So we all piled in, Lisa and Elka in one, Me and Axel in the other. Axel loves these moments and it brings out his competitive spirit, he can’t bear to be in the losing rickshaw. Our one set off first, so with peals of Axel’s laughter we set off through the new part of Pingyao as it was waking up.
We trundled through the new town and then came to the old walled city which we entered through one of its many gates and made our way to the Zhengia guest house where we had booked a room through ctrip . The guest house was right in the middle of this old town which is like something out of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. We were shown our room which was quite small with one very large bed, we mentioned this in passing and when they realised we were travelling with the same amount of luggage the Queen normally uses they deemed it necessary to move us, no fuss no hassle. The new room was marginally bigger, which believe me makes a difference and the bed was slightly bigger. This had been a concern as we were now travelling cotless once again, however I needn’t have worried, the bed was about 4 mtrs long and there was plenty of space for all of us, very cosy.
Pingyao is one of those few gems left in China, an ancient walled city that has been very nearly perfectly preserved. It is also a living city with real people living real lives in it. There are dozens of temples and old government building from the Quing and Ming dynasties to see and this is also where the first banks in China were started.
Pingyao is also flat as a pancake and the streets in the town are the preserve of cyclists and pedestrians and there just happened to be a bike rental shop across from us that had a tandem for me and Axel and a bike with a child seat for Lisa and Elka. Naturally Axel couldn’t reach the pedals or so he said so I was the pedal power for both of us. Lisa was a little wobbly at first and seemed a little nervous but she eventually regained her cycling abilities of old. We spent a couple of days riding about the town seeing the sights and just soaking up the athmosphere of what the china before the cultural revolution must have been a little like.
If you ever make it to this antique enclave of China which we would say is a must see , then brace your self for some of the best chinese cuisine available . The city of Pingyao is famous for it’s beef and we had nothing but excellent food here. Not mind you in the guest house we stayed in but in a fantastic tiny restaurant called DeJuyuan and another guesthouse / mini hotel called Tian Yuan Kui , all within a five minute bike ride .
Our very friendly host Bob’s only downfall was overcharging us for out taxi from Pingyao to TianYuan where we had to get a flight to BeiJing . He would’nt budge from the RMB500.00 which is €50.00 that he quoted for the taxi that his own friend drove and that himself and his wife hoped into for their journey to Tianyan . It was probably his own van too so Bob if your reading this then you will know that we know you overcharged us and you shouldn’t have mate !
We have unfortunatly managed to lose or delete the photographs we had taken in Pingyao so what you are seeing are whatever we might have had on our iphones or downloaded from the net .