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Bec’s Travel Diary

Friday, 06 May 2011

MapOk I have something I'm just about to post, but I found this which was my adventure to Qikou from Pingyao. Pingyao being the villiage I stayed in on my way from Xian to Beijing. As you can see I never finished writing it - hence I never put it up. And some of the funniest parts come after I stopped writing ie the standing ticket for the overnight train from Taiyuan to Beijing, and me trying to sell my sleeper ticket for the next night and being stopped by the police... but i dont know if I'll get around to writing that, so you may as well have the trip to Qikou. Which doesnt sound all that scary, except i need to add that i was absolutely petrified, as i was on my own and had to get two buses to the middle of nowhere, knowing that i wasnt going to come accross any English!

So I set off on this adventure of mine at about 700 am. The first step is getting to the bus stop, and quite fortuitously there were a few electric carts already around, so I get a lift to the bus stop, driving up a (mostly empty) 8 lane road in a zippy little electric cart. for a dollar.

I get to the station, and end up with a ticket, and put on a bus. My bag gets thrown in the boot at the back, along with the sacks of some sort of produce. Its all fairly uneventful - i"m just not too sure where i"m going, and hoping that the bus driver is going to tell me where to get off. Everyone gets off at the same place, which I take to be Lichi, despite the fact that we're being turfed out onto a back street somewhere in the middle of the city.

I'm a little bit stressed out at this point. I need to get another bus to Qikou, from the bus station, and I'd been working off the assumption that the bus i was on, would stop at the bus station. Lichi is not a tourist destination, and the chances of anyone speaking english are a basically zero. Which also means me walking around with my backpack looking a little stressed out is somewhat of an oddity. I find a couple of younger guys who tell me the bus stations down the road to the left, and when i come to this ridiculously big crossing I can finally see it across the road. The girl controlling the traffic asks where I'm from, and then really kindly says "welcome to our country"

Of course the taxi drivers somehow already know where Im going, and in all their kindness start telling me "no bus to Qikou, must take taxi, my car - just 100" and so on. I find the ticket window, manage to get a bus ticket, so the taxi man shrugs his shoulders at me and grins a little sheepishly." the girl from the window very kindly takes me out, pops me on a bus, and there i wait whilst the driver sleeps in the back, silently congratulating myself that ive basically made it.

when the bus does start, we drive for about 10 mins before the three of us on the bus are thrown onto another bus. Im ok about this, because the lady that took me to the original bus is still there, and looks like she's going to be the ticket lady on the new bus. then, for the better part of an hour and a half we wait. and drive around the block. and wait again. and drive around the block. people get on with sacks of bedding, and produce, and children. and we wait. eventually we leave, but at this point my lady has got off, i don't really know what bus i'm on, When i say to people "Qikou??" and shrug, i get a bit of a positive response my confidence is down to about zero.

The bus does get to Qikou, The drive is spectacular, along a ridge of the loess plateou where the hills have all been terraced and are dotted with caves and villages. Although we do almost lose a toddler out the door in the process. And when I get to Qikou there's basically nothing there. I'd been expecting to arrive at some sort of a village where everything would begin to make sense again, instead theres some sort of village lining a road. With the other side of the road the yellow river. Its spectacular, but I have no idea what to do. And somehow I'm supposed to get myself up a mountain, which is somewhere across a bridge, that i don't recall seeing, and organise a nights accommodation with people that don't speak mandarin, let alone english.

I find a shop, and get lunch (saying im vegetarian, because I still don't have my head around dishes like lamb stomach, which make up about 50% of most menus). Then this very kind guy takes me on a tour of some of the houses after I explain that I'm an architecture student and here to learn/draw the cave houses. Of course in this process my bag is still left at the restaurant, and I'm stuck between thinking this is an awful scam and they'll steal all my stuff, or if I want to go back and check my bags I'll offend everyone in the process. I also think he's a tourguide (seems like theres some chinese tourists that come here) and I have no idea if he's expecting me to pay him - i didn't exactly ask to follow him around, but im very grateful to have a moment to figure out what on earth to do. And these houses are phenomenal. They terrace themselves up the hillside, each complex with a courtyard, surrounded on 2 - 3 sides by caves dug into the hillside. All facing out towards the yellow river and the mountains beyond. They also have this brilliant water system where rain runs from the courtyards down the alleys and into the river.

I eventually figure out i can get a car up to the lishizhou???? for 30quai. which is an absolutely rip off, considering im supposed to be able to walk it. and a part of me wants to walk it, because the car feels like cheating. But i don't really know at all where Im going, at this point its been 8 hours since I left Pingyao, and I really just want to be there already. They drop me off outside a ladies house, chat to her and I think organise for me to sleep there. I pay the driver, and the guide, who had been ever so lovely, demands money from me and is only happy with 20quai. It doesn't sound like much, but i have definately been ripped off, and goes against the kindness that I've experience the whole way through China, where people tend to take pity on a lost girl on here own, rather than demand money. I think its this which annoys me more than anything. And then they leave, and I'm up a mountain, I think with somewhere to stay, and hopefully food, but I don't know.

Also, how could I forget Bob. I've been stressing for two days about whether I can get to Qikou by myself, not speaking any mandarin. He keeps telling me I should go, and not pay him money by staying at his hotel, or using one of his cars to go visit a nearby village. He texts me in the morning, to check that i get a bus, talks to the car guy when I cant figure out why they want to charge me 50 to get to somewhere that I can walk. Which is probably also the reason why it was so easy for them to take me up the hill, dump me, and organise somewhere to stay for me. he also messages me later in the evening to check that I have somewhere to stay. And the next day when I decide to go straight to beijing with Itamal, he organises to post my stuff to the hostel for me. Not only that, he calls the hostel to check that I have given him the right address, and messages later in the week to check that i have got my stuff.

And to summise the next part.....

Lady calls her niece (trys to talk to me, but i still have no idea whats going on!)

I see Itamal, and chat to him (an Israeli tourist, who happens to be staying in the village and becomes my friend for the trip to beijing, and later the great wall)

eventually finds the key and shows me my room - so very exciting, I have a room!

explore a little

eat dinner

best sleep ever, woken for breakfast and call mum

explore village again - its absolutely stunning! its the villiage on the hill (funnily enough) in some of th photos i've put up earlier

walk down hill

eat lunch at restaurant again

bus to taiyuan.