Monday, September 20th
I just could not wait to write this little tidbit that happened to us last night! As aforementioned, yesterday was a day of relaxation and catching up on things. We mostly stayed in our hostel, did homework (at least the boys did) wrote some email, made new friends and met up with old acquaintances. It’s a funny thing, the hostel world, as everyone reads more or less the same book and some of us end up at the same places. It’s nice to see a familiar face walking down the street even if you have only talked once before.
After staying cooped up all day we headed out for a stroll to take in some fresh air and to for hunt for a place to eat. Being creatures of habit we ended up in the same little restaurant from the night before! We have found, while traveling, and surrounded by the unknown, that we crave the familiar; whether in the form of an established routine taken on during the past few days, a familiar restaurant or someone we’ve met once before and come across again… like two magnets pulled toward each other.
Invariably, sitting down at this particular restaurant (three times now), we are joined by one or two fellow travelers that we have met since arriving to this very charming though overly touristic little walled-in city. Miguel being the teenager that he is, once supper is done the customary “What is the point of hanging around” singsong comes along, especially when it turns into discussions that he is more or less interested in. Having a guitar waiting back at the hostel, which is only a few hundred meters away, does not help our case. So off he goes to the waiting prize he has not chanced to touch all day.
On our way back we find Miguel sitting outside happily strumming along, repeatedly, the whole two songs he knows by heart! But, what the heck… he is a happy camper! Instead of being parked in front of the hostel he is sitting in front of the adjacent building, also part of the hostel but more of a bar setting. We find out that the manager/wife owner had asked him to sit there and play, even offering “free beer” (which of course is of no interest to him), but we do have a good laugh as we figure it probably was to attract customers inside.
The interesting part comes next as we are chilling with him and listening to some tune: this guy stops in the street and begins taking pictures of him playing, then another and another and this goes on for a good 10 minutes. Next thing you know, out of nowhere, there are like 10 to 12 “photographers” parked in front of us, snapping pictures left and right. It’s as if after the first one started taking pictures it gave “permission” to the rest to join the bandwagon. They all came out of the woodwork: some with their tripods, some just snapping away, picture after picture, others coming to sit next to him posing or sneaking up behind Stefan to do the same…I mean we cannot turn our heads without a flash going off… There is even this old guy that say down next to him, arms around his shoulders trying to get him to sing along with whatever song he was playing. When Miguel finally understood he shook his head indicating that he could not sing, the old guy just started belting out a tune to the delight of the photographers and now additional onlookers! The crowd is giving us thumbs up and we are just dumbfounded…too funny! I have a small glimpse or a little understanding of what movie stars go through now. I mean we couldn’t turn our heads without someone taking a shot! UNREAL…we did have a good laugh though!
We had noticed this phenomenon already in China; this intense curiosity that came in the form of staring at any white folk, touching as we passed by or taking pictures from a distance, though never so blatantly. The fact that there was an International Photographers Convention in town these past 2 days surely did not help our cause and made taking pictures more acceptable…. there is power in numbers or, at least, so it seemed to us last night!
We were still laughing about it last night before going to bed. Stefan went as far as to suggest to Miguel that he should have put a hat down as he just might made some money!
Pingyao has been fun, interesting and quaint but all three of us found the town a tad too touristy. We plan to rent bikes today to visit the less accessible quarters and chance a ride around the outside contours of the walled city. Then take a walk onthe ramparts surrounding the city, which is considered the oldest fortress in China. Hopefully today, we will avoid the onslaught of photographers and have a quiet stroll as we prepare to board the train at midnight tonight for an 8-hour ride towards Xi”an.
The boys are still asleep as I am sipping my tea and writing away, love it! We’ve spent our time well in Pingyao; quietly without too much sight seeing and more in the planning of the few months after Nepal. A lot of research right now, seeing Internet access on the mountains will be nil! Should be interesting. So are looking at some volunteering work in India and are trying to organize that before loosing connection altogether. We’ve also come across a young couple from New Zealand that suggested this cozy little island off the beaten track for part of our stay in Thailand. We were looking for some down time after our stay in India and this place might just fit the bill. We’ll have to explore all of our options and make a decision sometimes soon. For now we’ve done quite a bit and it’s time to concentrate on the present and enjoy the rest of our trip in China. It’ll pass by quickly enough.
Stefan has joined me for a cup of tea and now it’s time to wake Miguel up, look for some breakfast and do some packing. Check out time is 12 o’clock so time to get moving! Xi”an here we come!
Till next time,