We've enjoyed two relaxed days in Pingyao. DeJuyuan guesthouse has been fine, an old courtyard house several hundred years old, but with modern plumbing, thank goodness. We've slept well on a huge bed on a brick base, with heavy comforters. Bed is very firm, but we are used to that, and we have even come to like the heavy "beanbag" pillows. No idea what is actually inside them. It has been cold in the mornings, so we are glad for heat in the room, and for our down jackets.
Our "kang" bed in Pingyao
We received our tickets to the town walls and many old buildings and temples for free when we showed them our passports--because of our ages, I guess. The many old buildings are much like our guesthouse, and the exhibits are not very exciting. I think we'll have to go to the Minneapolis Art Museum to see recreations of authentic ancient Chinese rooms. They could use a good museum designer here. However, I think big things are coming for Pingyao, and for better or worse it will soon be on the major tourist circuit. Big parking lots are being built outside the ancient city walls, and the new high speed train station opened in July. We have even seen couple of posh new hotels within the old city. This new station had us thoroughly confused, because all the information we had, including that from China Highlights through whom we booked our tickets, showed the station as 100 meters from the city gate. Alas, the new station is more like 10km away. Good thing we didn't decide to walk!
Highlights yesterday were stumbling upon an open-air opera performance. A group mostly of old people sat on tiny folding stools they brought with them, and lots of onlookers came for awhile, including foreign tourists who snapped pictures and left, but I was entranced, and we stayed for the whole thing, which had many climaxes, when it seemed all would end, but didn't.
Kent said they weren't as polished as the troops he'd seen in Kunming, flipping their long sleeves back and sometimes missing, but I didn't know. What surprised me was that no one clapped, not even at the end, let alone at what seemed to be moments that called out for cheers and bravos throughout the performance.
Outdoor Opera performance
Afterwards we climbed to the top of the 10-12 meter high Ming dynasty walls, and walked halfway around (about 3 km) before descending for lunch in another old historic courtyard hotel --Yide.
On our first night we encountered a French Canadian woman traveling on her own, and found we had booked almost identical itineraries and even the same trains, although not on the same days, and the same hotels in Xi'an, where we'll go by train tonight, and in Shanghai. She, too, dislikes traveling with a tour group, despite the difficulties and frustrations of figuring things out on one's own.
Internet connections continue to be frustrating, unpredictable and sporadic. News from home appreciated!
Linnea and Kent