Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The further adventures of Sewer Horse

October 23rd, second day in Pingyao.

After the train the gargantuan "whole family" style bed in our Pingyao hotel seemed almost unimaginably spacious. However, the huge bed was accompanied by a rather short narrow blanket, which diminished the joy somewhat. The pillow of what can only be described as sand was a bit odd too. Still, a FAR more restful experience than the train. After the previous days cold shower experience we approached the shower with some trepidation. Words fail to describe our delight at discovering hot water!

The courtyard was a delight to walk out to in the morning.

After a blissful hot water extravaganza, we checked out of our rooms, left our bags with the hotel, and headed over to De Ju Yuan for breakfast. On the way we saw sewer horse and his legend grew (see previous post).

A curious combination of Chinese and Western items appeared for breakfast. Highlights included fruit salad, a crepe-like banana pancake, wonton soup, scrambled eggs, and little buns that were dipped into very thick condensed milk for sweetening. After breakfast we did some more wandering through historic buildings. Rod was terribly disappointed when he climbed out along a wall to a bell only to find that it's forbidden allure was false - on the other side was a mundane ladder up.

We then decided to head back to the painters and try to buy some stuff. We spent long enough looking through a number of his works he seemed to smell a sale and started to fetch more silk scrolls down from the attic. We ultimately bought two large landscape paintings on scrolls, three small landscape paintings on paper, and one painted fan for ¥480 (about $78). We were pretty happy with this and he seemed to be too. Rod then hit on the notion of taking photos of the artist with the work, a notion that seemed to please the artist. Rod & Pavan bought the big scroll on the far left, Chris bought the one on the far right.

Pavan had been telling us all about foot massages so we decided to drop in and let her get another. On a whim we then decided we might as well all get one. Initially the price was ¥30 per person for an hour+ foot massage but we eventually stayed for all the extras they offered so each person got a pedicure, foot massage for somewhat more than an hour, and a shoulder/neck massage for ¥75 ($12) per person. The pedicure turned out to make us a bit nervous as we were unclear on how clean the tools were. To be fair, they were probably just as likely to be clean as anything in North America.

Refreshed, we spent a bit more time poking around Pingyao. Among other things we saw a few more novel Engrish signs. Cool vineger or "Clear cooks the bull's penis" anyone?

We also saw a really cool old wooden statue in a taoist temple, a section of the city wall that seemed well on it's way back to being sand, and ever more Chinese mansion/palace style buildings. Frankly after thirty or so such buildings the novelty wears off and you start wondering how many thousand years they spent building the same building without modifying the plans.

By this point it was dinner time so we headed to De Ju Yuan once again. Delicious as always. We ate there something like four times, always ordered different dishes, and every single dish was enjoyed by all three of us. Add in that by western standards it's pretty cheap and you've got one hell of a winner.

We headed out for the train at about 9:30pm, figuring we wanted enough time to walk there if necessary. The train was not until 11:15pm so we wound up spending an hour or so at the station. During our time at the station the staff decided it was time to clean the station. This was achieved by kicking all the people out of a row of chairs and then walking up the middle of them spilling hot water on the floor. And then leaving it there. We expected they'd maybe mop or something but apparently just throwing water around was enough.

About fifteen minutes before train time they ushered all of us out to the side of the tracks and then frantically tried to get everyone organized near the car they were to be on. After a while this sorted itself, or perhaps they just got tired, and they left us alone in confused little clusters. After a while longer the train arrived and we scrambled aboard. The internal lights were off and there was no apparent indication of what bunk was what! We blundered around in the dark, probably disturbing everyone, for a bit before figuring out that just under the little side-table, well outside of ones field of vision without bending double were the bed numbers. After a bit of backpack tetris with the main bag shelf we all got loaded into bunks. Unfortunately these bunks were rather narrower than the ones for the Beijing to Pingyao trip, enough so that nobody was really able to get comfortable with a person and their second backpack on the bunk. We had a bit of a curious travel moment with everyone rammed into terribly uncomfortable train bunks but feeling tremendously happy after a wonderful two day stint in Pingyao. Off to Xi'an!!

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