Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pingyao To Xi'an

Greetings friends. The blog got a bit jumbled up I think in terms of the chronology. I'm confused. Right now, I'm in Xi'an, which is 9 hours west of Pingyao by train. We arrived at about 9 AM this morning after a very restless night on the sleeper train. The train got delayed for over an hour just five minutes outside of Xi'an, and when we got to the hostel, we found out our room wouldn't be available until noon. To make matters worse, its pouring rain here and supposedly will continue to rain for the two days we are here. Dang!

I forget where I left off when I was talking about Pingyao. I do remember going into quite a bit of detail on my copper chicken. A brief update: After I purchased the chicken (still trying to come up with a good name...) we tried to find a post office. Eventually we found one but they said they could only do it express mail for a very expensive price. The woman wasn't very helpful but seemed to imply we could get a better price in a bigger city. So the chicken is currently weighting down my suitcase in a major way. Dang.

On the second day we were in Pingyao, I rented a bike on my own while Mimi took a nap. The bike was very crummy and definitely way too small for me, but at about $1.25 for a day's rental, I wasn't about to complain. Having walked around Pingyao plenty at that point, I decided to venture out beyond the ancient city walls and see the "real Pingyao." Boy was it ugly. I biked around for about two hours, only to find block after block of run-down buildings, motor scooter repair shops, and other small commerce. The whole city had a dusty haze over it, and the "up and coming" vibe I felt in Beijing and Shanghai was completely absent. Pingyao felt poor. It was by no means depraved. In certain parts of the city things were definitely bustling. But it felt more like Cairo to me; a city that was on its way down, not up.

After a few hours of aimless wandering on my rented bicycle, I headed back to the hostel and woke Mimi up from her nap. I liked Pingyao inside the walls. It was peaceful, pretty and comforting. But it wasn't a place I would want to spend more than a few days. By the third day, we were out of things to do. We thought about taking a bus to some ancient underground tunnels about two hours out of town, but decided to take it easy so Mimi could continue to recuperate. On our last day, we instead rented bikes again and biked about three miles out to a modest Buddhist temple on the outskirts of town. To be honest, it didn't really do much for me, and I got bored at the temple pretty quickly. The highlight was when a monk gave Mimi a good luck charm (for a small donation) and hummed her a little Buddhist song of peace.

We biked back and got some soup and dumplings for dinner. We were ready to get out of there, but our train wasn't until 11 PM. We hung around the lobby of the hostel for a few hours, and eventually took a pedi-cab over to the train station. This was my third overnight sleeper, and I have to confess that the novelty may have finally worn off. This time we were on the top bunks. In the middle was a Chinese couple, and on the bottom were two other backpackers who I think were from Ireland. The lights on the train had already been turned off for the night, so we had the pleasure of storing our bags and getting situated in our bunks totally in the dark.

It was another night of endless 45 minute naps, and by the morning, I was decidedly grumpy. The hour-long delay and the rain certainly didn't help things. Right now I'm trying to find us a good place to stay in Hong Kong and Bangkok. Both places have so many options that I'm a little overwhelmed. Right now I'm just trying to figure out which neighborhood to stay in, let alone which hostel or guesthouse to go for. I can't go out an explore Xi'an because its pouring rain. I guess I'll just have to write more blog entries all afternoon!

Coming up next, an entry about all the FOOD I've been eating over the past two weeks, and then another entry about all the stray dogs in Pingyao. You can expect a detailed photo gallery for both. I tried to upload teaser pics but photobucket is being dumb. Arg.

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