I had originally planned one night in Pingyao and several nights Taiyuan. I’m not quite sure why, but as I travelled down the country from Harbin I decided to extend my time in Pingyao and cut down my time in Taiyuan.
I’m so glad I did.
Pingyao is a great little place. It has so much character! The old town is surrounded by a standard sprawling modern city, but the old town is fully preserved with its walls intact.
Taiyuan on the other hand seemed to scream, ‘I am generic, grey and smoggy,’ (Sorry anyone from Taiyuan).
The regional museum was good, it was clean, had English captions and creative displays but Taiyuan was the seventh city I had been in since leaving Harbin (also a big city) and by then I was really looking for something different.
You can buy one ticket from numerous places all over Pingyao that lasts 2 days. It will let you up on to the walls and into any of the many museums in the town.
The walls are a great way of seeing the city; I walked half of them before giving in and going back down for lunch. Once you exit something however – you can’t go back in. So don’t get off the walls unless you are finished!
In a place like Pingyao, you don’t even need to go into museums (though they are interesting.) The whole place is like an open air museum, just walk around and try the street food.
There is a whole section where cars are not allowed at all. It is great to just walk around and soak up the atmosphere.
Out of the centre of the old town cars are allowed (if they can fit), but it is really worthwhile to explore a little. You can really get a sense of the history and how ancient the town is away from the bustle of the pedestrian area.
I stayed four nights in Pingyao and totally could have stayed longer. I would have, except there was quite a bit that I really wanted to see in Xian, and that couldn’t be pushed back because permit restrictions on Tibet meant that I had to plan exact dates and was on a schedule. Pingyao is pretty darn cool.
It is also a really good place for day trips. There are lots of interesting and conveniently located.
I adored the Wang Family Courtyard – another must see if you like history – and the Underground Fortress.
If you like walking, then Mian shan, which is proudly proclaimed in hostels not to be in
Lonely Planet, is great trip. Don’t expect to get very far into nature, there are temples and corny dinosaur statues all around, but the scenery is nice.
I usually always try everything I see, almost everywhere I go. When I consider writing about it however, I often realise that I’m not quite sure of exactly what all the food I ate was, and that puts off any well developed blog post. For Pingyao however I recommend this dish.
It seemed to most often be called ‘Pingyao Noodle’ in the English menus, but was called all sorts of things. Pinyao has a really cool selection of local specialites, but this was easily my favourite.
If you actually manage to get bored of walking historic stone streets, taking in the view from the town walls, visiting the many little museums and have run out of day trips then Pingyao is full of all sorts of massage/cupping/reflexology places. I tried of all things a fish pedicure.
Those things tickle unbelievably! I spent a full three minutes trying to get my cackling under control and jumping under control. I was worried I’d accidentally catch a fish underneath my heel. Nibble nibble nibble.
Have you ever visited Pingyao, or another old town like it? What did you like about it?