A Summer In China: Visiting an Ancient City

I was in Beijing, China over the summer for ten weeks.  I interned in Beijing part time and took a sociology class on my off-days.  The following post comes from my program blog site where I was one of the official student bloggers. This blog describes when I visited an ancient city in China and by far, my favorite trip made during the summer. I wanted to share this specific article with my Her Campus family, though it is a bit lengthy.  If you would like to read more of the blog, feel free to click here!

 

Last weekend, the Alliance took us on a trip to Ping Yao(平遥)in Shanxi(山西)province. UNESCO named 平遥 a World Heritage site in 1997 because it shows an example of "a well-preserved traditional Han Chinese city founded in the 14th century".  The UNESCO description impressed me and I got excited about the trip.  Thrilled, I began to ask my co-workers about 平遥 and to see if they ever visited.  Not too far from Beijing, 平遥 seemed like the perfect destination for many Chinese people who wanted to tap into their history.  I found that most of my co-workers never heard of 平遥 and it took one co-worker a few minutes to connect it to 山西.  None of my co-workers I spoke to visited 平遥 nor did they intend to in the near future.  I began to worry that I would not enjoy my time there. Let me tell you now, my co-workers are missing out!

 

平遥 was one of the loveliest places I visited in China thus far.  When we arrived in山西, we disembarked our coach bus to get on a trolley.  The trolleys reminded me of safari cars with a cloth covering on top and no doors on the side. The back seat faced the rear and allowed for the passengers seated there to get a 360 degree view.  The moment we entered 平遥's city wall, I knew I would love this four day weekend.

 

I felt like I entered a KungFu (武术)movie, with the traditional rooftops, red paper cuttings, smooth dusty stone roads and hanging red lanterns. My suitcase rolled easily on the pavement into our little inn that also included an amazing restaurant.  The Alliance gave us a feast, calling for seconds and thirds of our favorite dishes.  It was the first meal that did not include pork, a widely eaten meat in China, which meant that two members of our group ate heartily for the first time.  After dinner, we unpacked our items and then went to explore the town.  There are mostly bars in 平遥 and all of them include karaoke.  I loved seeing the colorful lights and interesting souvenirs.  Locals loved seeing new faces and welcomed us with bright "Hellos" and any other English words they could muster.  It didn't take long to scan most of the city, but we didn't return to our inn until around 11:30. By this time, it was completely dark and stores began to shut down.  We walked back to our inn in darkness.  Apparently, 平遥 has a curfew. We soon found out that our inn did as well. In order to get in we needed to awaken the doorman.  I found this to be charming and quite funny. It really did feel like an ancient 武术 movie.

 

Our hotel room consisted of a giant king sized bed with a cloud for a mattress. I loved going to bed each night on such a soft surface.  The pillows felt like a bean bag which was not the most comfortable, but I learned to love it.  Even though two people shared a bed, the bed could probably sleep four.  My roommate and I had so much space between us on the bed, I forgot I was sharing it with her. Every night I slept well and could conquer the full day of events planned by the Alliance.

 

 

Our tour guide on the trip was phenomenal.  She spoke Mandarin Chinese and English fluently and used both languages in the tour so we could practice.  平遥  used to be the financial capital of China because the first bank was started there.  We got to see ancient money, toured an old bank, walked the city wall and we even got to check out a prison.  Our tour guide explained every detail to us and told us lovely stories along the way.  I also got to practice my Mandarin with her and found out she also studied computer science in college.  Obviously in the end, she decided not to stay in the tech field, but we bounded over this common interest.

I also enjoyed this trip because I got to bond with my fellow Alliance students.  I don't see most of them as often as I would like because of my internship and their Chinese classes.  I laughed so much and could finally let loose. We played card games, tried the local beer and told silly stories about our life in China.  I realize, with only three weeks left, that I will miss the Alliance members almost as much as I will miss China when I return home.

 

Leaving 平遥  was bittersweet. I did want to return to Beijing, my home in China. At the same time, my vibrant memories of 平遥  made me want to stay a bit longer.  I highly recommend visiting an ancient city in China.  I do suggest seeing 平遥 , but I think any equally as preserved will give you a unique perspective of China.  With my trip to Shanghai this weekend, I can't wait to see another side of China as well.