Píngyáo The Hard Way

Since travelling on a budget, I’ve normally opted for the cheapest possible way to do anything. When I realised I could get a ‘hard seat’ ticket from Beijing to Píngyáo for half the price, it was snapped up. Twelve hours overnight, can it really be that bad? When I first boarded the overcrowded carriage, I wondered why it was called hard seat because the seats aren’t actually hard, in a few hours I found out why, it is actually hard on your sanity. I would say, hard seat is more like some kind of military training program, not a mode of transport, the overcrowding can get ridiculous during some periods and it is almost impossible to sleep, at one point I lay on the gangway floor and used my boots as a pillow to catch a few winks, and believe it of not, it was actually more comfortable than sitting. The comfort didn’t last long though as I was woke by the cold smokey air coming in from between the carriages and the sound of those who weren’t strong enough, looking for their marbles. Got talking to an old man next to me, it turns out he was younger than I was, he had just been on the train a few hours longer, that is what hard seat does to people. So when we arrived in Píngyáo destroyed, it really did feel like that was the hardest £7.50 I’d ever saved!

Píngyáo is China’s best preserved ancient walled town, basically China’s version of York except a little bit rough around the edges. The Shambles magic ball man was nowhere to be seen though…

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We walked and cycled the streets aimlessly. Watched the locals playing cards and other games, stumbling across a bizarre funeral ceremony taking place in a narrow alley and attempted asking ‘where’s a chemist? I’d like to buy some cold sore cream’ in mandarin…

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Píngyáo was a thriving merchant town during the Ming dynasty, but boomed during the Qing when the nation’s first banks were created to facilitate the vast amounts of silver being transferred from one place to another. To me, it really was like stepping back in time. During one pointless saunter we came across an oddball pet shop, selling caged monkeys. I didn’t agree with what I saw but couldn’t help but wonder if these animals were to be the newest pet of a spoilt child, or the next meal of a rich business man. The practice of eating monkey brain is not unheard of in Asia within the underground circle, and some believe it can cure impotence.

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Píngyáo has been a nice place to do nothing in particular but submerge into Chinese culture, will be looking forward to seeing some more weird and wonderful things. After ten days in the land of the rising sun I have learned two things that the Chinese love. One, standing in doorways, it doesn’t matter if the room or train carriage is empty, someone always stands in a doorway. Two, pandas, they love everything panda, panda pants, panda hats, and like mackems, blue panda pop…

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One thought on “Píngyáo The Hard Way

  1. Pingback: From one “hai” to another « james due east

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