(Note: this trek was taken in June 2012)
You may be wondering why a lot of my posts are titled “Getting to” or “On My Way.” It’s because half the time when you are traveling you are trying to get to a place… you’re in transit! And so this is inevitably part of what I write about.
So it came time to leave Nepal. And I was thankful! (If you want to read my post about Nepal before go here). I really wanted to get to China now. Our flight was surprisingly on time and we didn’t have any problems.
We were taking China Southern Airlines from Kathmandu to Guangzhou and then on wards to Taiyuan. You might be asking why we were going to Taiyuan?
Taiyuan is home (or close by) to one of the oldest and one of the best preserved cities in China, Pingyao. (It is located just 50 miles south of Taiyuan).
But first we had to make it there.
The flight from Kathmandu to Guangzhou left at 11:00pm and arrived in the early hours. We are one of the few Westerners aboard (actually I think we are the only ones).
Chinese flights are surprisingly loud. I have never boarded flights and have people talking loudly through the entire presentation before leaving.
Well we had a pretty smooth flight to Guangzhou. In Guangzhou (which is about an hour away from Hong Kong), we had to make our connection to Taiyuan. We had plenty of time to do so but we were afraid that we were going to get stopped for some weird reason (idk we just thought that something in our bags were going to get us in trouble).
So we get our bags and the person that gets pulled aside so that China can check your bags was Matty. I continued on not realizing that he had gotten pulled aside. So then I waited for him and it seemed like forever until this Chinese girl who worked at the airport told me that he had already gone to our gate.
Well great! Now I have to figure out where I needed to be. I was getting kind of nervous since we only had 2 more hours until our next flight. So I quickly get in line to get to my gate. Only to realize that I’m in the wrong line and at the wrong terminal!
So I have to rush over to the right terminal which is clear across the airport. It takes me probably around 20 minutes to get into the gate and I still don’t see Matt. So I just continue hoping he will just be at the gate waiting for me (btw Guangzhou airport is really nice. Most Chinese Airports have been built recently so they are new). So I pass these shops that are just now opening and I still see no sign of Matt! Where could he be! It’s been about an hour since I last saw him.
So I go back towards where you enter into the terminal and then I finally see him. Phew thank god! He wasn’t arrested by the Chinese or something crazy like that (lol idk why… your mind goes to crazy places in situations like that). So we decide to relax and get some Starbucks. Yes these new airports have some sort of Americanism in them.
We got our Chinese Starbucks and decided to stay around the gate (which was about the time when my stomach started hurting again. seriously nothing is worse than having a stomach that is hurting while you’re traveling).
In China you will probably stand out if you’re not Chinese. Everywhere we went we were looked at with such curiosity. For a lot of Chinese they do not see foreigners too often or if ever so seeing someone who doesn’t look like them is fascinating. If you are traveling in China or when you do just prepare yourself for it. It is awkward and is very hard to get use to.
We board our flight to Taiyuan and once again we are on a loud flight and we are for sure the only westerners on board. (I’m not sure Taiyuan is a very important airport for foreigners to travel to).
The flight is relatively short and is an easy flight. (Taiyuan is located about 400 miles south of Beijing). Once we get off the plane we walk a long way to get Matt’s bag and then we realize we must get a cab to the train station or to the bus station! So our first try was trying to get a taxi from a guy that doesn’t speak English and we obviously don’t speak Chinese. (Chinese people do not speak English so don’t expect going in that you will be okay. It’s probably better that you know a little Chinese).
We go back into the airport and go to the travel center where they do speak partial English. Surprisingly she told us that the best option is by bus because it’s cheaper and easier to get to. At this point I was just like whatever! Sure! She was also polite enough to write in Chinese “I need 2 tickets to Pingyao” once we get to the bus station.
Next step was finding a cab that would take us for cheap. So she sets us up to get a taxi but when we got outside something weird happened. Seriously I can’t tell you even what happened. We put ourselves in this taxi and then this other guy came and yelled at the guy who was going to take us. It was just weird and the girl who took us over was asking questions in Chinese and seriously we had no clue what was happening… Gave us the realization that we were in fact in China…
So after 10 minutes of nonsense and standing around looking at each other we finally get another cab and we were whisked away to the bus station.
From the looks of it Taiyuan is a huge city but not filled with character. It has the feel of a soviet style city with huge apartments in rows and huge boulevards. And the pollution is very real in China. I know the Chinese like to say that there is no pollution but that is simply false. In every city it feels like there is heavy traffic with heavy pollution.
We didn’t get to see any of Taiyuan but there is really nothing there to view from a tourist perspective. So we decided to skip it and head straight to Pingyao.
We make it to the bus station and I showed the woman the Chinese characters that I received from the girl from the airport. Got my tickets and then I had to find the bus. Imagine a station filled with hundred of buses and your goal is to find the right one. Luckily there was a man who worked there who was watching us and decided to help us. It’s acts like this that saved our trip because we would have searched forever.
Somehow we made it on the bus and off we went. Just us and a bunch of Chinese people heading to Pingyao. The bus ride is surprisingly long and takes us around 2 hours to reach Pingyao. (with a little pit stop on the way).
After traveling since 11pm the night before we finally make it to Pingyao! And when you arrive by bus or train you will not be impressed. It is dirty and a little grimy but that is not why you traveled here. You have to walk a little ways to get to the old walls and to the old city. That is where you want to be and where everything is!
And that is where I leave you today.
2012 Asia Tour
images by: shawnvoyage