Monday, September 17, 2007

Trip to Pingyao

The bus and train between Wutai Shan and Pingyao did not seem to be anything really special but now thinking about it I was lost all the way and just rolled with the flow. I had book via my hotel the bus to Pingyao and they told me it left at 7AM and gave me what I thought was a ticket. At 6:30 I was leaving the hotel headed for the bus station when a lady from the hotel came running after me. I finally understood she had to call about the bus. After a few minutes we walked to the end of the street and there was a van waiting. We drove a few kilometers down the road and they switched me to another van. We proceeded on driving and occasionally picking up and dropping off people. I had a seat all the way in the back of the van and could not really see out any of the windows and there was not enough head room so I seat with my neck at an angle so I would not bash my head on the roof when we hit bumps. On the way we stopped a couple of times at what appeared to be a police check point. At one of these there were some things said and 2 of the girls in the van got out and started walking. I think the police said the van was too full but about 100 meters down the road the girls jumped back in the van and on we went. Maybe it had nothing to do with the van being full but the police just wanted to see the 2 pretty girls walk down the street.

At some point we drive into a city and the bus stop and everyone gets out. I did not think this was Pingyao but was thinking it was Taiyuan. I took out my piece of paper that had Pingyao written on it and the paper I thought was my ticket and tried to say I was going to Pingyao. He pointed to one of the local bus numbers and got back in the van and drove away. I did not really want to try and take a local bus when I did not know where I was going or really for that case where I was. I figured I would just hail a cab and get to the train station but of course I don’t know the words for train stations in Chinese. I get out my book and look up train station and write what I think is the pinyin words for train station on a piece of paper. By the way pinyin is a way for writing Chinese in the charter set I am use to using (abc etc). Well when I got a cab he had no clue what I was trying to get across with my pinyin word. Someone came up to me that spoke English and ask where I wanted to go and told the taxi drive I was going to train station. I guess I should have drawn a picture of a train. I have found out I draw a good bus because it has worked the 3 times I have done this. I also managed to ask the driver if this was Taiyuan and he confirmed it for me. I have no idea what he must have been thinking about this crazy tourist that doesn’t even know what city he is in.

I got to the train station and got in one of the long lines to buy a ticket. I don’t know if I was in the right line or not but figured I can also go to the back of another line if I am wrong. I got out my book again and wrote down “Pingyao”, the words for “Soft Seat” which is a class on the train and the world for “Now”. While waiting in line someone in a uniform came along and ask me some question and all I would say was Pingyao and point to it on the paper since even though I can write pinyin I pronounce every world wrong. He seemed to understand and when I got to the ticket window he was there waiting for me to help me buy a ticket. Since we did not speak the same language he was not really any help. I handed the lady my piece of paper. My guide and she started talking and look baffled. They got the lady from the one line over and she told me only hard sleepers. I said OK and handed them some money. My helper in the uniform walked me to the entrance to the part of the station where they check tickets. I said my normal “Xie Xie”. This is thank you in Chinese but of course I pronounce it wrong which gets some laughs but at least they seem to know what I mean. I got on the train and made it to Pingyao with no problems. Just a normal day of travel,it’s not like I was chased by the police or anything exciting happened.

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