Saturday, March 29, 2008

Its Gonna be a Frosty Night

Forgive me if this appears to be a rant, but it appears that due to “Chinese State Rail Regulations,” the T2525 service from Taiyuan to Xi’an is not allowed to provide heat to its passengers. Translation: the heating is broken, deal with it. Still, in a way, the train – dirty duvets and all – balances out our terrific hotel back in Pingyao.
The International Financier’s Club/ Yunjincheng Hotel was one to be remembered. It was worth every atom of the five stars awarded to it by the Pingyao Tourist Commission Board. Set in the style of a 18th Century courtyard experience, complete with heated stone mattresses. Doesn’t sound very comfortable, but let’s put it this way: I haven’t slept better since arriving in China.
The town of Pingyao itself was fascinating. One of China’s few remaining walled cities, the ambience of pre-technology age China is fascinating. To think that somehow it managed to circumvent Mao’s hardline Communist policies serves to supplement an already unique atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Taiyuan. Once home to Oberlin College’s China link, the city of 3 million marked our arrival point in Shanxi province, but was more or less one grey dray, dotted by a few tourist hotels and a surprising amount of Russian-era architecture. True, the Jinci Temple was pleasant, and the toddlers’ rollerskating lessons adorable, the city itself doesn’t have a huge amount going for it.
Perhaps the Olympic cycling event, which is be held in the Shanxi capital, will bring with it a wave of economic prosperity, but that is a perhaps at best. Sure, all cities in China are economically booming, but nearby infrastructure has to improve.
An excellent case in point is Xi’an, several hundred kilometres further east. Originally an industrial town, it has blossomed wonderfully, with a per-head tourism industry amongst the most developed in China. There are facilities tailored to anyone’s tastes, A-list celebs and up. True, I wasn’t overly wowed by the Terracotta Army, but I know others who have raved about it.
Still, let’s hope frostbite doesn’t set in and spoil things! From Shanxi to Shaanxi here we come.

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