After seeing the capital city of China – Beijing we went deeper to see more cities. First, we headed to Pingyao then Xi’an and then to Zhengzhou. We had everything perfectly planned but something went wrong and we didn’t manage to see everything we wanted :( Still you can check out our story and ideas for the travel around China.
First Stop Pingyao – The Ancient City Of China
We took a train from Beijing to Pingyao (shy of four hours) and were very impressed with the condition of trains in the country. Everything is highly developed when it comes to this question. Trains are modern, well-kept and quicker than hell. They can even go 300 km/h! It’s very convenient considering that China is huge and it enables to move faster between big distances.
Oh, and the views! Just take a look:
PINGYAO – FIRST IMPRESSIONS
We got to the train station in Pingyao and took a bus to the city centre. Then we got off and were trying to find our hostel. We had a map (printed from google at home) and someone helped us and showed the right direction. The buildings were small and all of them looked the same. Fortunately, there were numbers on them so it was easier to find the place we were about to stay that day. It was a house, in which people lived but they had one room to let. Of course, it wasn’t in high standard but we usually stay in low-budget hostels so we didn’t mind. We just left our backpacks and set off to see the city.
ANCIENT CITY OF PINGYAO
We left our backpacks and went on foot to see the ancient walls and the city as our hostel was just about 10-15 minutes away. We don’t speak or read Chinese so we had to find our own way to remember the route and not to get lost when coming back. Our hostel was settled in one of many back alleys and we took a photo of a poster with watermelon right at the entrance to this alley :)
Pingyao is an ancient Chinese city with well-preserved buildings from 14th century. The city has barbican gates that enclose the city centre. The whole city looks very historical and gives the impression of being in the past.
Here you are the photos of the city wall and old Chinese architecture:
We loved the city and were surprised with the number of tourists visiting it. We thought that Pingyao is rather not so popular but there were many tourists. Almost all of them were from China.
We were walking around and discovering the city when we stumbled across a Roman Catholic church. We are Roman Catholics so we just had to see it, especially that there are not so many catholic churches in China.
The church was small and rather modest from the outside. We went inside and saw that it wasn’t refurbished for a very long time:
During our visit two Chinese people came to pray for a while and then we stayed completely alone there. We were very happy to see it and compare the differences between how the Catholic churches in European countries and China look like.
PINGYAO – EATING OUT
There were some restaurants within the city walls but there weren’t many people inside. Although they looked good and well-kept, it daunted us from going there. During our trip to Asia we had a rule to eat only in places where many locals eat.
That’s why after sightseeing we were looking for a place to eat near our hostel and here it was:
It may not look inviting but we can say that we felt well after eating there :) No problems with our stomachs and that’s the most important thing when eating out.
This place was funny. There were many locals and we realized it was a family business because a man, that was preparing the food, was talking a lot with his wife, father and sons (they were also eating there).
We didn’t know what to order because there was no menu with photos available. But fortunately the guy serving food was very helpful. He went with us to the table where other people were eating and showed us two dishes they were eating :) And we pointed with our fingers what we wanted.
We paid about $3 per both of us and waited a while for the food. Almost everyone was looking at us and when the father of the owner came, he started smiling and pointing a finger at us and asking about something his family members :) But not in an unpleasant way. It looks as if he was happy that some foreigners came. It really might have been the first time that some tourists came to eat there because this place doesn’t look good from the outside and probably most tourists eat in the city centre.
The food was even tasty – 2 types of noodle (or maybe even 3) with some sauce and some meat.
PINGYAO – FINAL EXPERIENCE
In the evening we bought some fruits in a local convenient store and went to our hostel. We enjoyed the possibility to experience this city and had to prepare for the next day.
On the next day we visited the place where we’ve eaten a day before and ordered the same thing. Everything went smoother than the day before.
Then we went to the bus and showed a driver a Chinese name of the train station on our phones and he just nodded so we thought it’s a right bus. But just after two stops we realized it wasn’t (because he terminated) and we were angry with the driver. We generally had situations in China like this couple of times. Some people in China that are confused just tend to nod after being asked a question. So it is an important thing to keep in mind while going there to prepare better and pay particular attention.
We took a taxi to the train station and headed to Xi’an.
Second Stop In China – Xi’an
We got to Xi’an in the afternoon and were trying to find our hostel first. It was the first time in China that we couldn’t find a place for so long but we knew we were close to it. Our hostel was next to the metro station but we couldn’t find it. There were only high blocks of flats and we couldn’t even find any numbers on them.
Finally we went to the entrance of the gated community because there was a guard. We showed him our reservation from booking.com and he just let us in. He didn’t speak any English so he wasn’t able to help us.
We just went into one of the block of flats and didn’t know what to do next. We spotted one girl and showed her our reservation but she didn’t speak English as well. She took her phone and wrote us in a translator, if we speak Chinese :) But of course we didn’t – that would be very helpful.
She went with us to the different part of this block and showed us a lift. We thanked her and went in – we got off at 27th floor and there were only 3 apartments. One of them had a number of our reservation next to the door so we knocked and some people opened. We showed them our reservation and they just pointed at the opposite door. The door was slightly open but we still knocked. Nobody answered so we opened it and looked what’s inside. There was a long corridor with 6 or 7 doors. We weren’t sure what to do because it looked a little bit like a big apartment and nobody was around.
OUR HOSTEL IN XI’AN
We went inside and knocked at the first door on our right. They were slightly opened as well and we could see a Chinese man in his underpants laying on the bed. We thought that maybe he is from the staff and it’s his room. He opened and we asked in English, if it’s a hostel and showed him our reservation. He just looked at us and pointed at the the door that was opposite the entrance.
This door was open and there was a room that looked like a hostel room and at the table there was a business card with the name of the hostel in which we booked a room, so we thought that it must be a right place. The weird thing is that there was no staff but we left our backpacks and closed our door with a key that was in the room and just left to see the city.
WHO’S THE OWNER?
After we came back in the evening we saw that someone was in our room and left a note to call a certain number. But we didn’t have a card that would work in China so we thought we will ask a guy from the first door. He opened again in his underpants and he didn’t look happy that we bother him again :) But he helped us after couple of minutes of explaining and trying to show him what we need.
So he gave us his phone and we contacted the number. It showed up that we called the hostel owner. He could communicate in English fortunately and he asked what time we want to check out on the next day. We told him that we don’t know but may even go very early in the morning and he decided he will still come the same evening to collect the money for our stay.
Then we went to our room, had some rest for a while and after some time I opened the door to go to the toilet (there was one toilet for all guests and the hostel was in reality one bigger apartment).
Ok, so I opened a door and I was really astonished and didn’t know what to do because in front of our door there was a guy on a motorcycle. I actually was also a little bit scared as well. It was 27th floor and he was sitting on a motorcycle right in front of our door. And he was looking at me so I told Pawel that probably the owner is here and wants us to pay and then asked the guy, if he’s the owner. Then he just showed me with his hand that he wants to get into his room next to our door with his motorcycle and just rode in slowly.
We were laughing for so long because we haven’t seen something like that before. But later we also saw couple of times that people were taking their motorcycles into the lift and took them to their apartments instead of leaving on the street. We don’t know why he did that in this case because it was a gated community.
AND FINALLY … :)
Later that evening the owner came but he wasn’t on a motorcycle and we paid for the hostel. The reason that we didn’t know what time we were going to leave the room on the next day is because we wanted and planned to see the Teracotta Army. But we just felt we didn’t have energy to do that. Our trip was just to exhausting for us at that point. We’ve planned to travel very intensively throughout Asia and sometimes we spent just one or two days in one place so whole days were packed with sightseeing and moving around.
At that point we decided we just had to rest for a while and we skipped this attraction. We know it sounds awful but we were extremely tired and probably wouldn’t be able to wake up early. Instead we just planned to spend the whole next day in Xi’an.
ONE DAY IN XI’AN
We were just walking around the city for the whole day and didn’t even plan anything special. Maybe we didn’t use our time in the best way and didn’t see all of the most popular attractions of this city but at least we had a day of rest.
Again we saw many people dancing on the streets in Xi’an. And this was also a big and positive attraction for us.
XI’AN CITY WALL
It was funny to get there because we were heading to the city centre and at some point had to enter the traffic with cars (we were on foot) because there was no walkway any more :) And we saw that others do that as well.
The Xi’an City Wall was made of stone and was built in order to protect the city. It’s large and about 600 years old. It’s a piece of history and definitely so interesting!
BELL TOWER OF XI’AN
Bell Tower is the next spot that can’t be missed while in Xi’an. Next to it there’s a shopping mall with little fountains. We’ve took a photo session there because of the amazing area. The Bell Tower is a symbol of the city and it’s a beautiful architecture typical for China.
Third Stop Of China – Zhengzhou
In the evening we took a train to Zhengzhou. Till now we can’t pronounce this name properly :) We took a metro and met our new host at the metro station. It was a young girl that invited us to her home (again via couchsurfing). She was still living with her parents but she found a couch for us. She showed us a way to her house, which wasn’t far from the metro station and as it was evening already we stayed with her and spent some time together.
2 DAYS IN ZHENGZHOU
We planned to go to Zhengzhou for 2 days to visit Shaolin Temple on the first day and then the Yellow River on the second day. But our crisis lasted and we decided again to stay in the city and relax. Fortunately, these 3 days of relaxation charged our batteries for the rest of our trip. So we just missed three attractions: Teracotta Army, Shaolin Temple and Yellow River. Yes, these are huge attractions but what can we do about it. Hopefully we will come back one day and still get the chance to see them.
I think we didn’t even do a proper research on the internet what to see in Zhengzhou so maybe it could be planned better but here are the attractions we saw during our trip:
It’s the first attraction we’ve visited in Zhengzhou. It’s a building in the business district of the city. The building is located by the water so it’s an interesting place to have a walk and spend some time.
ZHENGZHOU ZIJINGSHAN PARK
This was our main attraction of the city because we spent almost whole 2 days in this park. Maybe we were that exhausted we just needed some peaceful place to have a rest. And what would be better than a beautiful green park?
The park is rather big and the greenery is stunning. I don’t remember, if we’ve written about this before but there’s something very interesting about Chinese parks and playgrounds. There was a playground in this park and it was full with elderly people. Some were playing cards together and some were practicing sport. There was a couple of two elderly men that were playing ping pong and they were amazing at it. They spotted that we were watching their game and invited us to play together. It was so much fun but the guy on the pic was a tough customer :)
EATING OUT IN ZHENGZHOU
We found a place that we think served food for breakfast but we went there to eat dinner because we thought it was more like a dinner for us :) We noticed that in China people use to eat quite similar things for breakfast, dinner and supper – at least we think it’s what we noticed. But anyway the food was tasty and here you are also the pic showing how we were practicing eating with chopsticks :)
So this was our least successful part of the whole 6-week trip. We didn’t see Teracotta Army, Shaolin Temple and Yellow River. But we spent some peaceful time in the cities and had some funny adventures. Everything apart from this went smoothly. Our next stop in China was Shanghai. In the next note we will share with you our experience from there so stay tuned! :)