China Trip – 2nd Stop Pingyao

Monday, 14 October 2013

flew San Francisco to Beijing, then my first stop was Taiyuan, next up was Pingyao – ‘China’s best-preserved ancient walled town’ according to my Lonely Planet China guide.

Pingyao City Walls 542
▲ It is indeed quite a wall, it stretches for over 6 km, punctuated by no less than 72 watchtowers. Unfortunately there’s very little of the wall you can walk – just the stretch from the North Gate round to the Lower East Gate. Most of the rest of the wall is closed off for some reason or other although remarkably little work seems to be going on. The gateways into the walled town are impressive, some of the road paving still bearing the grooves worn by ancient wheels.

Pingayo Harmony Guesthouse 542
▲ Inside it’s a living breathing city which somehow escaped the depredations of the Cultural Revolution. My first stop was to check in to the backpacker’s favourite, the Harmony Guesthouse, a stone’s throw from the South Gate and on the very busy (and very touristy) Nan Dajie (South St).

Pingyao Mao in Newspaper Museum 271◄ Then I spent a couple of days wandering the streets of the old town. It was an early Chinese banking centre and many of the finely restored old courtyard houses trace the story of their banking families and moneymaking activities. Others have become small museums, like the Newspaper Museum fronted by this statue of the Great Helmsman, Chairman Mao.

Pingyao Goddess of Reincarnation 542
▲ There are plenty of temples as well, here’s the Goddess of Reincarnation in the Confucius Temple, with an armful of reincarnated babies ready to be redistributed to their new parents.

Pingayo rainy night 542
▲ During the daytime South St was packed with local tourists (not many foreign ones), but on my last night rain cleared the streets and left it with a touch of red lantern magic.