Day 5: Doing walks and sleeping on trains
We walked with our guide. We visited two local temples. One had a huge pagoda of stone the other was more than thousand years old and had beautiful courtyards. We also went to a local park and we received some dance lessons from local women there. Â Only the women danced: the guys like us did what Chinese men do: talk. We also visited the Hutong.Â These are small alleys where the people live. Some are just 40 centimeter wide. Â Lastly we visited a mosque.Â It is strange to see that the Muslims in China pray to the west because of Chinaâ€™s location to Mecca. The minaret was also extremely small and was not bigger than the other buildings. After we arrived back at the hotel we could do a quick fresh up and afterwards we went for a quick and delicious lunch.
In the afternoon most of us did not know what to do.Â One of the suggestions was to visit the Pearl Market. This was a large mall where on the top floors pearls were sold. Since we did not need anything we went to the Starbucks and drank coffee instead. Back at the hotel there was some time left so I ate some noodles again next door before we went to the train station for the night train. It was very busy at the station. Luckily because we have some older people in our group we were allowed in the priority lane and could skip the huge line. The train was pretty interesting. A cart was divided in small open sections. Each section had 3 beds on top of each other. I had to share my compartment with 5 other Chinese ladies. I could even sleep a bit in the top bed.
Day 6: Foggy temples
We arrived in Pingyao early in the morning. This was originally a town where banking started in China. It still has a nice small city center with narrow busy streets with a lot of Chinese tourists and merchants within a city wall.
After a quick breakfast in our new hotel we ordered with a small group a taxi to go out of the city and visit a temple collection in a beautiful mountain gorge. Sadly the weather resulted in ups and downs. Sadly the down side was that we could not see the beautiful surroundings because of the fog. The up side was that there were hardly any tourists around making the experience simply stunning. Â First we followed a nice stream. We saw ugly statues in a beautiful creek. We met a lot of happy Chinese who loved to be in pictures with us pale folks. We also went to small gorge. It had very dangerous steps that in Europe would be illegal. We had not the nerve to proceed. We would like to finish our vacation and continue to live for quite a while. Next stop was a beautiful temple in the mist. It was built in the mountain and there was also a bit of mountain hanging over us with bells ringing in the wind, making this place one of the most peaceful places on earth. Â When we got back we ate with some. The restaurant had plastic table ware and wanted to bring us the rice in the end. That was a bit strange for us.
Day 7: Temples and banks
After sleeping in, I went for the city wall, it can be walked around. I met two of the group and started the walk with nice talks. After lunch with beer I proceeded alone. I visited a Confucius temple and the Temple of the City God. At that last temple I got soaking wet because of a show they performed. It ended with a fountain of water spraying on all the Chinese filming the event on their phones. Because I am the tallest I got soaking wet. I also visited in Pingyao old banks and old head quarter of private escort services that protect the silver along their routes. Pingyao was very busy, it was filled with Chinese people on holiday. After walking through the crowd and visiting all these sites. We ate a nice quick meal in the hotel before we could enter the night train once again.
Day 8: A lot of people of clay and flesh
After waking up after an okay-ish rest we arrived in Xiâ€™an where we went straight to the Terracotta army. It was early but already extremely busy with Chinese visitors. The first and largest pit was just plowing through the Chinese to get in front for a picture. Sadly there was nog much room to enjoy this world wonder. The other pits were not as crowded and you could see how they find the parts of the army. After a long drive we arrived at the hotel for some well-deserved rest and a shower. In the evening the whole group went for dumplings: the local food of Xiâ€™an. We got them fried, cooked, and steamed with all kinds of vegetables and meat.
Day 9: Celebrities on a wall
We started the day with a nice bicycle ride on the City Wall. It is too far to walk it all. We were celebrities on the wall. The Chinese love to make photos of us. Some try to do it sneaky, but when I see it I start making a pose. Most of the time it results in a group photo of me and the whole family. After a nice lunch we went to the Pagoda of the Wild Goose. Next to this large and very old tower, it was also a nice park with some merchant buildings. After a long walk back to the hotel I had the rest of the night off. With I really needed to catch up on this blog.
Day 10: Treasure hunting in a park
After a slow start I prepared to check out. While I was in the lobby I managed to walk into my partner in crime Geocaching-wise. Well more apprentice and teacher, since he found 2000 more caches than I did. We decided to go for the one north of the city wall, which was reachable by bus and metro. After a short walk we reached the park. After a nice stroll and a successful find we returned to the city center. There our ways parted again were I walked through the Muslim quarter by myself and see what the Chinese tourists want to buy on their holiday. And I came to the conclusion that it was a lot of junk and a lot of unhealthy food. Luckily the bus-ride back to the hotel was not a problem. We met again in the nearby McDonalds for a quick snack and restroom before we went to the airport to fly to Chengdu.