Cheng Chin Yuen

Friday, September 01, 2006

24th August – Ping Yao

We arrived in style with a free pickup from the train station courtesy of Harmony Guesthouse though in an electric tricycle. Ping Yao is the place to be after a big city. The 200 by 200m old Han town is enclosed by Ming high walls and only electric vehicles are allowed in. The pedestrainised town centre is a lovely chaotic mix of dreary ancient houses and those that have been restored. Architecturally, this collection is a gem which we mostly admired from the outside thanks to the 120 yuan all inclusive ticket.

Harmony is well runned by a Chinese lady who spoke English fluently and confidently. For 40 yuan each the dorm bed wasn’t cheap but the boss was kind enough to give us a private room within the dorm. So to use the toilet, we had to get out of our room, go through the dorm, into another private room which the shared toilet was attached to.

The morning got off to a slow start after interesting travel trivia with a Swiss (Marcel) and Portuguese (Mario) traveller. Among others we talked about a Mount Blanc boulder the size of a house tin foiling a passing car below, hang-gliders in Portugal who miss the beach landing and wind up in the sea, the pregnant lady simulator (complete with baby delivery) Mario was working on and the one hour he had to run through Potala Palace in Tibet. Mario thought that India was hell. Ha Ha!

After some excellent 3 yuan mutton Lan Zhou la(1) mian(4) which was freshing ‘la’ed before your eyes, we walked the old streets of this once-merchant-now-tourism town. We passed a very old hospital and one joint that used to hire out bouncers to protect valuable goods as they were transported by carriage in the past. These bouncers need not be the big guy outside Zouk today but was probably a martial arts exponent. It was the time before the gun levelled the fighting field. Main doors usually open to reveal a big ‘fu(2)’ and the richer homes can have up to 100 rooms! It was nice to have an even mix of those who restored their homes and converted them into mini-museums or a ‘Reception Foreign-Guest Exampled Unit’ (aka Guesthouse) for tourists and those who couldn’t be bothered and let time take it’s toll.

Piped sewerage hasn’t caught on yet in most parts of town so you have to wait your turn till the shit-cart comes along. The donkey pulling these carts have a tough time especially with the perfume coming from the traditional wooden buckets. Half-naked uncle does the job of scooping the muck up with a large coffee strainer attached to a pole and filling the buckets inside your house!

Beyond the tourist stretch are the hu(2) tong(4) or single storey mass produced small local dwellings. These brick houses are laid out in a neat but narrow grid and do not have bathrooms or toilets. You have to cycle out to the public ones which come with a thriving rubbish dump in front of them. There is a small external store-room outside each house where the coal-clay solid fuel is stored.

On some streets, it’s quite amazing how people live in a space about 3 by 3.5m. This is not only their shop but their living space, kitchen and bedroom. Windows have a removable wooden panel over them, I think it’s to protect the glass and for security but one lady told us that shops with the panels covered are vacant.

There also seem to be several autistic people here.

I found a room for two going for 30 yuan. It’s on the southern edge of Xi Da Jie about 30 metres from the Lower West Gate. No name, just a sign in Chinese that they have rooms. No hot water too. But we decided that one day of old houses was quite enough.

Dinner location was determined by paying a rider 3 yuan and asking him to drop us at his recommended eating place outside the old town. This conscientious guy did his best but unfortunately, the place where we landed ourselves wasn’t fantastic at all. Perhaps it had something to do with the lady being away leaving her hubby with the cooking. There was a cute kitten (making me think that ‘Mimi’ is the default name for female cats in China) here which we played with and heavily photographed.


Blogger Hui said...

Happy Teachers' Day Mr cheng!


11:28 PM  

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