Monday, January 24, 2011


If you have ever seen a Chinese Kung Fu movie, then you'll have an idea what this city is like.  It is a walled city with stone houses, stone walkways, and inner courtyards surrounded by different doorways into different buildings.  During my stay, it was a city empty of visitors, but had a tourist infrastructure where each guesthouse and hostel advertised using English.  Coffee with real coffee beans and names of local delicacies were painted on the windows.  Many of the houses were museums and there was an underground castle that you could visit.  Instead of paying $40 to visit the sites, I opted for the $1.50/day bike rentals. 
When I travel, I like to feel the climate, taste the air, feel the ground beneath me, and witness real life.  I biked 6 km to a nearby Taoist temple with an old farming village nearby.  The next day I biked 12 km to another Taoist temple.  The landscape was brown and flat with grey, bleak trees scattered amongst the fields.  The sky was white with fumes from rubber factories.  The weather was warmer than Harbin but still I couldn't feel my toes after biking for an hour.
I wasn't in some isolated little village, but in what felt like a pretty developed small Chinese town that had a train station. The day I arrived there was no water to take a shower.  The next night there was no electricity.  Maybe the city is just undergoing a lot of construction which causes water and electricity to be cut.
The street food was terrible, a type of thick rubbery noodle with soy sauce and vinegar as the flavoring.  The stir fried veggies from the hostel were mushy and bleh.  There has only been one other place in China that I wasn't too keen on the food.  In Western Sichuan in the Tibetan plateau where food was hard to grow and hard to transport in, the local delicacies were not especially tasty.  The only food that was good in Pingyao were the $0.30 BBQ meat sticks.  
Even though it may not sound like it, I actually enjoyed staying in Pingyao.  It was nice to have time to write letters, to walk around, to bike around, to have some time alone in the quiet of my thoughts.  It wasn't a crowded city so that was nice vacation from the huge population of China.  I also liked that I could walk 20 minutes from the hostel to the train station. 

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