Trip to Pingyao (Part 2)
Following lunch on Saturday, we separated to do our own thing - decided to meet back at the hotel at 6:30 for dinner. Melanie and I decided we wanted to rent 2 bicycles and rid around the city. Melanie asked someone along the road where we could go to rent bicycles, but the person she asked told us two of the employees of the shop next door would rent us their bikes for the day. We had a look at them, but I decided not to rent it as both bikes were girls bikes. Sorry, I have an issue with that… :-) We were a bit hungry and decided to enjoy a “traditional” (?) Pingyao Xiaochi (small snack) along side the road. It was pretty decent, seemed to be a kind-of-noodle dish that was mixed with hot oil, vinegar, and other seasonings. It was a cold dish. Following that, we walked around the old city more, goofed off a bit, enjoyed some chinglish signs, and just had a good time. We had time and decided to make a short trip outside of the city to go to a Buddhist Monastery called Shuanglin. We got on a tricycle petty cab, and 30 minutes later, we were there. Our driver was nice, he first took us on a nice scenic journey around part of the old city before exiting the city walls into Modern Pingyao. Melanie had a conversation with him - She told him I was Spanish, and that we both were studying at Beijing Daxue (University). The driver proceeded to offer his wisdom and tell her how bad an American boyfriend was, (apparently we are mean, un trustworthy, etc…). Good thing I am Spanish. I am Miguel. Nice to meet you. We got to Shuanglin Monastery and paid the 25RMB tickets for entry. Just before we entered, a woman came up to us and told us that we needed to pay for parking! (our driver would wait for us). The small vehicle rate was 10RMB. First of all, it is a tricycle, not a car! After a few minutes of negotiation and wanting to avoid a scene, we agreed on paying her 5 RMB. We were just about the only people there (I think we saw 2 other tourists, the rest (maybe 5-10) were monks or workers. When we left, we decided to buy an ice cream - and of course the attendant at the ice cream stand happened to be the parking attendant. Nice diversified business, huh? We returned to the city, saw a few more sites, took some more pictures (here is one with Melanie and our petty cab driver) and eventually returned to the hotel to take a shower before dinner. The water pressure sucked big time, so it wasn’t a nice shower that I was waiting for all day, but oh well… We had dinner at a small pseudo-hole-in-the-wall place, drank “bitter melon” beer, which was terrible, and then went to get foot massages. Went back to the hotel to sleep. The next day, we decided to have breakfast at the hotel again, and then checkout. We wanted to get a mini-bus to a place called “Qian Family Courtyard”, which was a former residence of a very rich family a few hundred years ago. It was the site of the filming for the movie Raise The Red Lantern. It was O.K. We then caught another mini-bus to Taiyuan, the Provincial capital of Shanxi Province. At this point, I noticed that my batteries were dead - I forgot to charge them the night before. Oh well, nothing too exciting after this. Taiyuan is a city of 3 million people. Seems pretty modern. From the bus station, we took a taxi (cheaper than taxis in Beijing) to the Long Distance Bus Station to see about bus tickets back to Beijing - as it was only 6 hours versus 9 hours via train. It cost us 120 RMB. Not too bad. Buses departed every 15/30 minutes, so we bought tickets for the 4:45pm bus. They told us it would instead be 7 hours, but that was still O.K. as we would have a late supper in Beijing. We had a quick late-lunch at a restaurant across the street from the bus station - O.K. food… a bit slow, too.. We returned to the bus station and boarded a fairly new bus. Clean, modern, had a TV, etc… Through out the trip, they played movies (all in Chinese of course, including Jackie Chan’s The Medallion) and then Karaoke videos - which was quite annoying because at 12am, we heard the music (not too loud) but then behind us, some people would be quietly singing along (so you would hear whispers). Not very cool…. The bus ended up getting to Beijing around 1:00 Monday morning due to heavy construction-caused traffic. All in all, it was a good trip, managed to get to work on time on Monday, no bad surprised, had fun. Hope we can do more of these trips as it is nice to get out of Beijing for a few days.