07.02.2013 - 15.02.2013
Today is officially the last day of the Spring Festival holiday in China, which began on the 10th February 2013, waving goodbye to the Dragon (of which I am one, welsh and chinese stylee), and ushering in the year of the Snake. Today also marks 10 months on the road for us, which means the countdown in weeks until we get home is now in single digits. My dad is especially happy about this, as when I speak to him on Skype, he's not interested in what we've been doing, but more about when he'll be seeing me again. 8 weeks is not long at all.
Anyway, we arrived in the city of Pingyao a couple of days before the New Year began, hot off a very rickety sleeper train. Pingyao is a small city, popular with both international and local tourists in China for being the best ancient walled city on China, with the majority of buildings within the walls being built in the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is very pretty and like stepping back in time. What made it even nicer, if that's possible, is the rows of red lanterns hung across each historic street for the Spring festival. And then, on our last days there it snowed. Cue impossible levels of beauty. We were very lucky to be there.
On New Year's Eve, we vainly tried to find out what there was to do in Pingyao for the event, not finding much official activities we could join in with. We figured the Chinese probably only celebrated the day itself and headed to bed, only to be surrounded with a constant hum of firecrackers and fireworks at midnight. We tried venturing out with our coats and hats over our pyjamas, only to find that the hotel owners had locked us in for the night. Instead, we stood at the top of the stairs overlooking our hotel courtyard marvelling at the fireworks exploding from every side before we got too cold and headed inside.
The next day was also a bit of an anti-climax, with fireworks being set off randomly through the day, something we had got used to in the run up to the day too. More people on the streets but not really much more to see. We still enjoyed being in Pingyao and due to the cold, spent most of the time sitting in cafes warming ourselves on cups of hot chocolate and looking outside and the pretty pretty snow. Not too bad. Now, we are in Xi'an, having visited the Terracotta Warriors and being suitably wowed by both the scale of it but also the beauty and craftmanship of each soldier.
So back to the cold. It is very tiring to be cold all the time. We had hoped to spend 2 months in China, and having just made it to 1 month here, we are exhausted. New Year has also made it more expensive than hoped, particularly transport-wise, so we've made the decision to get out early rather than make our way back to Hong Kong again. We have 9 more days to go here before we fly over to Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, we weren't able to extend our trip to Tibet as foreigners aren't currently permitted in Tibet until April due to the Tibet New Year festivities. Next best thing is going to Labrang Monastary, a Tibetan monastary near the Tibet border on the mountain town of Xiahe, so that's our next stop. This will also be the last of our Chinese train journeys, as after that, we've opted to fly to save time and also because we couldn't get any train tickets out of that area to Chengdu. In Chengdu, the plan is to visit a Giant Panda conservation centre (baby pandas - yay!) before our flight to Colombo, via Kunming and Bangkok.
Bangkok airport will end up being our most visited place in the whole trip, as this will be our 3rd time there since we landed there from Australia in October. We figure we need some time to just laze around for a while so are heading for the Southern coast of Sri Lanka in a beach town called Tangalle. Not sure how long we'll spend on lazing, but with 5 weeks there, I'm sure we'll make it last. Can't help looking forward to the upcoming warmth more and more in Sri Lanka, especially since I'm currently suffering from chilblains and Dave has a sore throat and cold, but we want to make the most of the rest of the time in China, it's certainly been an amazing place for us so far.