15 May 2017

Xingcheng

So we left Panjin today. A bit sad as there were a lot of nice people here.

Having booked our train ticket last night there was no rush, although we didn’t bother trying breakfast again. A cup of instant coffee would do, although I am now down to my last one.

The bus to the station took us a roundabout way, so we got to see a few extra streets of Panjin before we got there and it was through security and a long wait for the train. About 10 minutes before departure (and before the train had even arrived) we were allowed onto the platform and watching the train pull up. This time we were almost right on our carriage, so there was no frantic run to get to our carriage on time. The trip was long and uneventful. It took over three hours to go a very short distance. Not caused in the least by stopping for half an hour just after we started. No idea why, but it was frustrating. More frustrating than the drunk guy across from us with no sense of personal space. Everything we did was of immense fascination to him.

The long flat lands made a difference to the hills we were used to, and the freshly plowed black soil reminded us of Australia. There is some prime agricultural lands here, and we wondered what crops they would be growing. A few tractors were about finishing off some massive paddocks.

A few industrial places passed us by and we were in Xingcheng. This is a city from the Ming Dynasty that is relatively untouched. The old city walls still stand along with all the gate houses and it wasn’t filled with skyscrapers.

The first hotel we tried actually accepted us. Reasonable price, clean room, bed flatter and harder than the floor and nice people. So we were able to start looking around straight away. The old city walls were just down the street from where we were staying.

It showed straight away how few tourists this place gets. It may be famous for its beaches at the coast, but here the outside of the wall was all bike and motorbike repair shops. The entrance gate has a crescent moon wall around it creating a courtyard to trap troops inside as you rain death down from above. A practical design as long as the attackers don’t have siege engines.

Inside there were no cars and only a few bikes around. Considering that the main shops here sold bikes. There was a pair of awesome Chinese bikes with sidecars that if we could have bought we would have. Small old military models but in very good condition. We almost asked how much they were, but they wouldn’t fit in our bags. Then there was the Royal Post buildings. This is a recreation that has been under construction since 2013, and no one has moved in yet. It is supposed to also be a museum to the Emperors postal service when it is finished. At the moment you can just walk around the eerily silent streets between empty buildings. There is a section where you can take your selfie with a bronze cast of an Emperor under the watchful glare of his generals. I don’t think they liked the fact that I tugged on the Emperors goatee.

Further in is the old bell tower. This is the central building with roads leading off roughly north-south and east-west. As we had come in on the west road, we went south. Here there was a nod to tourism, and the street was filled with nougat shops, hat stands, cheap sunglasses and kids toys. There were also all the other stalls you would expect in a tourist town. Yet it was contained to this one street. Down to the gate, and then we decided to walk around the wall for a bit.

The town is really normal. Small houses in various stages of disrepair, narrow streets that abruptly end in a gate, and the occasional attraction. We did go into the old Confucian temple. This is one of the largest in this region of China, and one of the oldest.

It was a very peaceful place to walk around, and even though the temple is no where near as big or impressive as the one at Jangshui, it was still a pleasant walk in the grounds away from the noises of town. If town was a bit more crowded, you could imagine the old men retreating into here to play cards and get away from it all for a while, but as it was, apart from a few staff and caretakers the place was deserted.

Then out for a quick walk around the east entrance where there was a bit of a farmers market wrapping up for the day. We caused a bit of a stir walking around there but it was all good natured. Then onto the North Gate. All the gates are identical, and the whole town area is less than 2km2.

It doesn’t take that long to walk around, and is a very nice way to spend an afternoon. Very refreshing compared to the overly touristy places that this town could so easily become. We like it!

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