Our journey to Pingyao
This post follows on from our blog on Datong.
The best thing about overland travel is that the journey can be just as adventurous as the destination. Our journey to Pingyao started with 2 bus rides and a taxi before we boarded our coach to Taiyuan.
For some reason, despite our journey being a 4 hour day trip, our coach was a sleeper coach. Meaning the seats were replaced with tiny beds stacked on top of each other so tightly we were forced to lie down for the entire journey. Hmmm.
As we got on the coach we noticed several small buckets next to each bed. We thought they were bins for rubbish but we were quickly proved wrong as one man after another coughed up unending amounts of phlegm into them. I don’t think we ever got used to the constant spitting.
The coach journey turned out to take an extra 2 hours and we were worried we would miss the last train to Pingyao. Through a small miracle we managed to get to Taiyuan station just in time for the last train to Pingyao. The only catch was that the only tickets left were standing tickets. Oh and did I mention this was the last official day of the holiday?
In China this means that anyone who had travelled to see family had to get back home on that same last train. When we got on the train our faces must have been a picture. The train was completely packed with people sitting on seats, on the floor and even on the tiny sink that was at the end of each carriage.
As we stopped at each station along the route more and more people came on this train that we were sure could not handle one more person.
One guy came on with a giant sack and satellite dish. As you can imagine it is slightly hard to carry both items that are both bulky and awkward. The sack he was trying to balance on his head soon fell off and proceeded to land on Karen, squashing her against the wall. As she flailed helplessly under the sack she nearly got knocked out by the satellite that the guy was trying to balance next to her. The sackman apologised profusely and offered Karen an orange. All was well with the world again.
As we were the only foreign travellers in our carriage we were the main topic of conversation. We did not mind but it is slightly disconcerting to have twenty sets of eyes looking you up and down and blatantly discussing you with their neighbour.
As we were getting used to breathing through the small pockets of air in between the herd on the carriage another challenge arrived. Staff started coming down the carriage with trolleys selling food, drink and even soft toys?! People were shoved out of the way one by one. People were climbing on top of each other by this point. It was very comical and mad at the same time.
When we first boarded the train the conductor asked us our destination. He said he would give us a shout when we got near to Pingyao. True to his word he came along and shouted Pingyao, Pingyao. So we hurriedly put on our backpacks trying not whack somebody in the process and slowly edged our way to the door. Easier said than done on a packed train.
Unfortunately, the conductor was slightly overzealous as it was another 30 mins before we hit Pingyao. It was impossible to take off the backpacks so we had to grin and bear it for the entire 30 mins.
Finally 2 hours later which seemed more like 15 hours we got to Pingyao. As soon as we got in our free golf buggy pick up we knew it was worth all the hassle of getting here…. but more on that here.
To read our guide to Pingyao, please click here.
1) Book your train early from Datong to Pingyao. We left it late, hence why we had to get the bus first.
2) Almost all the guesthouses in Pingyao offer free pickups from the train station. Mention this when you book your stay.
3) Try and book a seat on the train! 😉
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Peace & Love,
Paul & Karen
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