Wednesday 12 September 2007

China: To Pingyao

Despite Mrs M's bottom lip quivering with grumpiness, we performed a hugely successful shopping expedition in the streets around our hotel, an area packed with trendy shops suitable for our Flossie. Two washing up bowls of boiling soup were consumed for lunch before returning to the hotel and then to the airport for the flight to Taiyuan.

Those chaps at Heathrow ought to come to Beijing International to see how a model airport is run - clean, efficient with friendly staff. As I approached the toilet, a gentleman in a white uniform gestured me in to his beautifully maintained domain. He indicated the soap dispenser and the towels, and bowed elegantly as I exited. Bit different from the toilets in Terminal 3.

Forty minutes after take off, we landed in Taiyuan to be greeted by our organised driver for the one hour drive to Pingyao. There was heavy fog (or pollution?) and beams of car headlamps shot up in every direction like a cat in charge of a laser show. Our driver made regular use of full beam headlights, flashing everything in his path.

Pingyao is an ancient walled Ming Dynasty city which used to be the financial capital of China in the Qing period. As we approached the town, the bicycle density increased and we became wedged in between the narrow unlit walls of the town. We had to walk the last few metres to the hotel and as we turned the corner into the main street, we were presented with a stunning view of medieval shops dominated by an ancient archway. The waft of barbequed something hit my nostrils.

In our hotel, the Tian Yuan Kui, there were a few tourists sitting around wooden tables in almost a ski lodge atmosphere. We were directed through courtyards to our room where we flopped. At this point I noted that we would not be short of electricity as the room had 42 sockets.

We sat outside for dinner which amused the occasional local who would stop, examine our food, examine us, smile and walk on.

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