Xi'an to Pingyao
Sorry for the lack of postage. There was lots to see and do in Xi'an and lack of time to blog. We saw the Terracotta warriors the first day to avoid the crowds of the weekend and spent the rest of the time exploring the city. Erika and I had our anniversary and spent the day by ourselves exploring the bell tower and drum tower and shopping in the Muslim Quarter. The weather was somewhat hot you might say. The forcast was for 38, but it only got to 36 then 35 the next day and 33 and 35 the next two! I remind you that this is still May and not the middle of summer. At least Xi'an is inland so it's a dry heat and bottles of water are mercifully cheap (1 kwai if you look, 2 or 3 otherwise).
From Xi'an we boarded a train to Datong, which we thought was 6 hours (noon to 6pm), but was actually noon to 6am the next morning. Since we bought the hard seat tickets and not the sleepers we decided to get off early at Pingyao, a place we thought about checking out anyway. We got here at about 10pm and jumped on a rickshaw after much haggling to wind through narrow alleys and the ancient Ming wall which surrounds the town of 40000. Our fears of possibly being robbed on this tour through the dark were alleviated when we ended up at a lovely guesthouse with hosts who speak fluent English and had a suite for 6 available.
The weather finally broke with rain last night and sprinkling through the day. A little bit of shopping and some engagement photos of the newly betrothed couple have lead to a nice relaxing day in the now insanely overtouristed town. Pingyao used to be a very rich financial center 200 years ago and then fell upon hard times, which has left it almost unchanged over the intervening decades. Supposedly the last complete Ming wall, cobbled streets, and quaint shops along the main drag all lead to a feeling of stepping back in time.
From here its an adventure of trying to secure passage to Beijing, the last stop on our trip before returning to Hong Kong for a pre-return-trip rest.