Sunday, April 3, 2011

Top 41 list

Around the first of the year, the New York Times travel section ran a list of 41 places we need to see in 2011. Two of those places were in China: Pingyao and Hangzhou.

I have not been to Hangzhou -- it's on our list of places to visit on one of out trips to China. But I have been to Pingyao, and long before it was a popular tourist destination.

I went to Pingyqo in 1997 on the recommendation of my Chinese co-workers. The trip started with an early morning express bus ride to Taiyuan, where I spent the remainder of the day looking over the city. The next day I caught a mini-bus to Pingyao, about an hour or so away.

Pingyao is one of the best preserved Ming Dynasty cities in China. It also was the site for the Chinese movie, Raise the Red Lantern. Residents weren't that used to seeing foreigners wandering the streets, and I soon attracted a following of curious children. This was much better for my ego than having a toddler take one look at me and run screaming for his mother.

Mostly I just wandered through the walled-in old town, and then climbed the city wall where I took this picture.

China is hell-bent on modernizing everything, and I wonder how Pingyao has fared in this process. Pingyao was on the short-list of our places for an overnight trip when we were in Beijing last fall, but Shanhaiguan won. But now it seems like Pingyao has become a hot destination for independent travelers to China. I'm sure I'll find many changes when I return.

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