Thursday, July 2: Pingyao, China
8:30 I decide to spend another day in the back alleys of Pingyao while the others from my group take a bus to Mianshan. While I hear the scenery on the drive out there is unbelievable, I’ve seen enough monasteries and temples for a while and the whole day-trip thing strikes me as a bit too touristy. I could be wrong about this but I’m willing to take that gamble if it allows me to see more of the ‘real’ Pingyao.
11:00 I fall into the tourist trap and buy a chunky beaded necklace from a street vendor. She was asking 480 Yuan. After about five minutes of haggling we agree on 100 Yuan. I might still have overpaid. I wouldn’t be caught dead walking down Main Street in Stouffville in this thing but I do have a plan for it. My collection of souvenirs now includes a few seashells (Australia), an eagle talon and a piece of yak rib (Mongolia), piece of greenstone (New Zealand), a small carved Moai (Easter Island), etc. I’ll add these items to the necklace before I hit Burning Man in September 2016. It should be a conversation starter.
12:00 I’m sitting on a low stone wall in a back alley of Pingyao. It’s about 30C in the shade and I’m not in the shade. A little Pekinese dog trots over to me, hops up on the stone wall and sits down about a foot from me. I don’t think I’ve petted a Pekinese dog since the 1960s when my Aunt Marion had one named Mr. Woo. Is this a reincarnation of Mr. Woo? Could be. In a way it reminds me of Bai Bo, the young opera singer who sat beside me in the hotel a few nights ago. But then it’s very hot, I’m dehydrated and possibly hallucinating.
3:00 I pop into a brand new cafe that advertises iced coffee, air conditioning and free wifi. This is a three-run homer in China. The coffee hits the spot, the AC is cranked, and the wifi fast enough to upload a few photos. I end up chatting with the owner, Daniel Huang. His English is exceptional so I ask if he has travelled. He tells me that he studied psychology at Penn State and visited Toronto many times while living in Pennsylvania. His entrepreneurial instincts won out over a career in psychology, and he now runs hostels and attached cafes in Beijing, Datong and Pingyao. If the hostel is anything like the cafe, he’s onto something. I’ll look him up when I return to China in a few years and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s running a mini tourist empire by that time.