Friday 14 September 2007

China: around the wall

Starting from the southern gate, we walked around the town wall which was originally built before the Ming dynasty. On our right, through the ramparts we could see the busy streets of Pingyao, clanking with bikes and car horns, while on our left the greyness of the walled town life appeared sleepy in, around and on top of the densely packed domestic dwellings.

Signs of life were rare; a woman raking spices, orange corn cobs stacked on roofs and sad-faced cats and dogs tied to posts that responded to our pet noises. Suddenly fire crackers popped over the centre of the town coinciding with the end of the school day as hoards of energetic children filled the streets.

We continued to the north gate and descended to explore the main street and take lunch. We bypassed the spiced donkey and Pingyao dog on the menu to find some superb dumplings and spicy noodles. After lunch we continued along West Main Street to the west gate, bypassing the northwest quadrant. This road had many shops and stalls with seemingly genuine Portobello Road-style Chinese junk - right up Mrs M's street. After completing the circuit, we drifted along the Southern Main Street to the hotel.

In the late evening we sat outside trying to explain the location of Oman to an English teacher keen to improve her conversational skills. I noticed two small boys, one Chinese, the other a blond European, sharing a plate of food. I grabbed my camera which caught the attention of a herd of Chinese tourists, who snapped away with great delight. Then I asked myself, why was this scene so endearing?

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