There were many, many, things we loved about Ping Yao. From it’s oldy-worldy streets packed with Chinese tourists to its crazy traffic system, in which the drivers of the bikes, scooters and golf carts which are allowed within the city walls all seem to make up the rules as they go along. We also loved our hostel owner Mrs Deng (who we nicknamed Peggy Mitchell on account of her love of leopard print dresses and the fact that she always knew what was going on in other people’s business) who called the three of us collectively “Emileeeeeeeeeeeey”.
|I’m not sure where she is, but be assured somewhere in the middle of this “dispute” is Peggy.|
The walled town, filled with traditional houses and narrow alleyways, is exactly what we were expecting China to be like. The thing I really liked about the old city though is that despite the fact that it’s an obvious tourist magnet, plenty of locals still live in the centre so daily life goes on around you. Old grannies sit on their doorsteps gossiping; washing lines fill the narrow backstreets and women buy fresh fruit from carts in the road. We spent a whole afternoon sitting in a pagoda people-watching as parents brought their children to the park to play and fly kites and old men stood around watching a game of Chinese chess and practising Tai Chi.
|Totally unimpressed by the Judy Blume antics.|
One day we hired a bicycle made for three – amazing – and (once we’d actually got the hang of it) we spent the afternoon amusing everyone we cycled past. Once again we also experienced the kindness of strangers as people came out of their shops and stopped their golf carts to help us when the chain came off our bike. Later on as we sat in a cafe and it started to rain the owner rushed out to put plastic bags on our seats so they wouldn’t get wet.
|Today’s entertainment will be provided by members of the Judy Blume Club.|
|The locals looking after us.|
But our absolute favourite moment in Ping Yao was when the girls went to get a massage. We walked into a shop on the main street which has a sign and a price list outside of the different treatments on offer. So far, so legit. However when we went inside there was just one lady watching some kind of Chinese soap opera. When the girls asked for a massage she couldn’t have looked more confused and as she handed them an English price list she looked as though she’d never seen it before in her life. Jenny opted for a foot massage and Anna asked for a back one. Still looking totally confused (to the point where we wondered whether she actually worked there) she made a couple of phone calls, stuck Jen’s feet in a bin filled with water and went back to watching tv. Five minutes later her friend arrived and joined her in front of her programme. After another ten minutes, as lovely as it all was watching a soap opera in which we had no idea what was going on, we decided to ask her whether someone was actually coming. Again she kind of shrugged her shoulders, which we took as a sign to wait. By this time we were considering just making a run for it. But seeing as Jen’s feet were stuck in a bin we figured we probably wouldn’t get very far.
|Who’s more confused: Jen or the woman who works there?|
Eventually another lady arrived who was almost beside herself with excitement that she was going to get to give Anna a massage. She took her to another room, from where we could actually hear the slaps as Anna was given a massage which she described as so painful that somebody would be charged with GBH for it back at home. Jenny, meanwhile, had a foot massage from the first woman who kept the same confused look on her face throughout, as though she didn’t quite know how she’d ended up in this position. Maybe she had just popped in to watch the telly…
|Ping Yao, one of the highlights of our entire trip.|