Mom and I headed to PingYao on March 27th for the weekend. We hopped on an overnight train from Beijing to PingYao in a soft sleeper car. When we got to our assigned room, a man asked us, in Chinese, if we could switch with him and his friend so that his group was all together. (At least that is what I got from it after some Chinese exchange and some pantomiming.) So, we switched one room over. When we got into our room, we found we had one top bunk and one bottom bunk. We had one other companion on the other bottom bunk. Just after we got into our room, the fourth companion arrived for the other top bunk. At this point, Mom thought she might like to have the other top bunk so that we were both on the top. I managed to ask her, in Chinese, if she wanted the bottom bunk and we were all set. She then tried to give us some money because the top bunks cost less than the bottom bunks. We tried not to except it, but she insisted. It wasn't very much, only a few dollars worth. I got to practice my Chinese listening skills by eavesdropping on the other two travelers. I figure at this point it is okay to eavesdrop since I still only understand a small percentage of what people are saying. I did understand though when the two were talking to a train employee. The traveler who paid us told the employee about switching beds and how much she paid us. Then, the employee told her how much she should have paid us (less). After the employee left, the girl tried to explain that she had given us too much money. I quickly got out the money she had given me and gave her back the correct amount. She was very happy.
The train was comfortable enough to get some sleep (with earplugs). We arrived in PingYao in the morning around 7am. We took a golf cart to enter the old city wall and to get to our hotel.
Here is Mom at our hotel.
After dropping off our luggage and eating breakfast, we walked through the old city to the city wall. We climbed to the top of the city wall and walked up on top about halfway around the city. This city wall was much more narrow than the one I rode a bike on in Xi'an. From the wall, we had a nice view of the old city. On our walk, we also passed the local jail, in which Mom was very interested.
On the walk through the city:
Nearby and on the wall:
Later we visited the first bank in China which has been turned into a museum. One of the most interesting parts of the museum was the story of how they came across some old accounting papers. After the banks had closed, the buildings were given to the poor people in the area. Since there was no money for repairs to the buildings, when they found some old papers, they used them as wallpaper on the walls and ceilings of the buildings. In the 1990's, when the people were asked to move back out of the buildings and they were turned into the museum, the old accounting papers were found. The museum people carefully took the papers off the walls and ceilings and pasted them into books that are now part of the museum. Our guide told us that he could not express how much happiness he felt when he looked at the writing on the papers, the calligraphy was so beautiful.
Ancient alarm system:
In the afternoon, we walked around the town and looked for interesting things to buy. We walked by a stamp maker's stand and didn't plan on buying any stamps, until he told us that they would only cost us 1 quai including the engraving. That is about 14 cents. So, we gave in and each bought one. I was able to practice my Chinese again with him and with the 6-10 people who gathered around to stare, take pictures, and talk with the foreigners. When I pulled out my Chinese driver's license to show the stamp man exactly what my Chinese name should look like on my stamp, the crowd all came closer. They started asking about where I live, what I do, and how much money I make. Guesses were thrown my way, from 2-3,000 to one million RMB per month. Unfortunately, I haven't learned yet how to say that they shouldn't ask me that! I laughed at the one million RMB guess and told them, "No, no, much less." I ignored the 2-3,000 RMB guess. I know that they were just being curious and that I make a tremendous amount more than they do or probably ever will. I am thankful for my opportunities here but I do try to keep everything in perspective.
Men playing Chinese Chess:
On our walk around town:
Our last stop, was a temple.