Day 60: Grottos, pollution and giant futons.

15 September 2010

Location : Datong to Pingyao. China.

High Point: Seeing the look on Jim Stevens face when he realised that he had to share a giant futon with myself and Sun Ji, priceless.

Low Point: Pollution, smog, and endless coal mines.

No Point: Chinese red wine, very different.

Chinese word of the day: Meinv = Beautiful girl.

Author’s comments: Stage three really kicked off in earnest today, and we got a great taste of what Northern China has to offer. The day started in Datong under a cloud of dense smog caused by the numerous coal mines and power stations in this province, Shanxi. Martha’s daily checks were completed in super quick time by James and myself whilst Paul and Steve played the first Chinese FTFE snooker classic, with Steve edging victory due to Paul’s inability to keep the white in play. We then progressed to the famous Buddhist Yungang caves. Dating back from the 5th century these really are a site to see, over 250 grottos carved into the side of a hill each containing huge Buddha and intricate stone carvings, stage 3 is definitely the most cultured stage already.

Our destination for the day was the city of Pingyao, and after nine solid hours of driving in a constant smoggy twilight we reached her at 9pm. Pingyao is famous for it’s ancient inner city which has the best preserved wall in the whole of the country. The plan was to park Martha outside the city and then walk to our accommodation inside the city walls. In true FTFE style this plan was scrapped and we decided that Martha would love to see what the tiny inner streets Pingyao had to offer. A British red fire engine pushing her way through the crowded ally ways was a cause of great excitement, and the looks of amazement she received was quite inspiring.

Our accommodation turned out to be a a fantastic traditional Chinese Xin Tai Hou Folk guest house, set in a small courtyard. Our beds were giant futons and Jim Stevens found it quite hard to comprehend that he was to share this with myself and Sun Ji. There was much discussion over choosing dinner whether we should try some of the local delicacy, stir fried ‘dog’. Opinion was divided with Paul, myself and Steve a definite no, and James with a whilst in Rome attitude said he was game on. We did all however agree that when we see cat on the menu we would all give it a go! Stage 3 is full of a lot of chat.

After dinner we retired to a small cafe for a route itinerary discussion and a debrief. Fear of lack of sleep drove us to sample some Chinese red wine, needless to say I think the the Chinese have quite some way to go before they rival the French, however it did the job and we all slept like babies, even James.


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