Subtitled: trying not to freeze to death in Pingyao.
A couple of weekends ago I was again awake bright and early for a trip away from Shijiazhuang. This time the school had decided to pay for us to go away to the UNESCO World Heritage city Pingyao. About a 4 hour train journey away, in order to make the most of our time there the foreign teachers, our boss John, John’s wife and child, John’s friend the Mayor and his wife and child all made it to the city. When we first arrived, me and Julian were slightly confused. We had exited the train expecting to see heritagey type things but were in what appeared to be an ordinary city. For a second I thought we were in the wrong place! But then John shepherded us onto a bus type tuk tuk thing and we set off to find the ancient city. Once we saw the giant wall we were reassured that we were, in fact, in the right place.
Photo of the wall from inside the city.
Once our transport had wound its way in and out of the ancient narrow streets, we arrived at our hotel. Decked out in the traditional Chinese style, there were lanterns strung up and painted decorations everywhere. Once we entered the room however, we were pleasantly surprised to see the room was modern, with a tv, Western toilet and proper beds. There was only the slight problem of Sam’s height meaning that she only just fit!
After we dropped our stuff off, we set off to explore the ancient city. With John and his Mayor friend translating the signs for us when the Chinglish made no sense, we were able to learn quite a lot about Pingyao’s central place in Chinese history. It was one of the first sites of government, the site of the first bank as well as having many martial arts training centre. It seemed as though every 100 metres there was a new museum, and after a while they all started to blend together. They all had similar architecture and a similar layout with courtyards and small rooms. A couple had extra features, one of the banks had an underground vault that you could explore, another had an archery section, and some had a place you could try out your kung fu skills.
Kung Fu training
Because its now heading into winter, its the offseason for travelling and the streets and museums were really quiet. Of course, there were still some people who tried to get photos with us, but we had John on our side, chasing away the people who grabbed us!
After kidnapping Julian for a drink that evening, we had a relatively early night in preparation for the early start the following day. What we were not prepared for however was the weather. The temperature had dropped several degrees overnight and the wind had picked up. I was freezing when we looked at the wall, especially because I’d left my flat in such a hurry that I’d left my earmuffs and gloves behind. With the wives helping us, Izzie and I bought some handwarmers which helped, and of course were super fashionable!
The photos with my school on the bottom are from the website. Whilst John guarded us from random Chinese photos, he made us pose for far too many over 2 days!
After buying the life saving warmers we got on a bus and slightly warmed up for the ride to the Qiao family compound, about an hour away from Pingyao. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and when we got off the bus the cold took our breaths away. The compound was a famous old families estate and is divided into 4 sections. The English translations were much better than those in Pingyao so were actually able to learn about the history of the family.
An excellent Pingyao translation!
After walking around for a while something came over us, I can’t fully explain it, but I think we were so cold that we became hyper and spent a good half hour running around taking photos of us all wrapped up. Naturally John, in his 2 layers, found this hilarious. We also continued the tradition of the day before of trying to photobomb everyone’s pictures.
Me and John!
Photobomb from the first day. Notice the hair down and no gloves.
Photo from the next day. Notice the lack of skin showing!
After not being hassled by Chinese vendors (it was too cold even for them), we headed to Taiyuan and caught the train home. Pingyao might have made my teeth chatter, but it was definitely a good trip!