Finally I got to jump in the pool!

The above pic is what I’ve been looking at everyday when I take the elevators to head out whilst in Bangkok and everyday I think to myself, that looks so refreshing especially since it’s SO HOT here. So as Steemfest 2019 has come and gone as are the meetups. I found myself with nothing to do today. Full disclosure, I didn’t purchase a ticket for Steemfest, I just went to the venues to see if there were any booths and stuff like most conventions have, sadly there weren’t so I just walked around looking at stuff.

So today, swimming I went. The water looked so refreshing and inviting, I went straight to the deep end and jumped in. That was a huge mistake! The “deep end” of this pool is not at the end, it’s in the middle and even so, it’s not deep. That’s not even the biggest shocker. As refreshing and cooling as the water looked, I didn’t expect it to be freezing or pretty darn close to it. I could literally feel everything shrink, lol. Needless to say, I got out of there pretty fast. Lucky it’s so hot here that I immediately felt better, unlike the time I fell into the Fraser River in Canada, in the middle of winter! If you must know, my brother and I got dropped off onto some logs so we could lay some crab traps and do some fishing. Never in a million years would I have thought that my brother would decide to be a lumberjack and at that moment, start a log rolling competition without telling me. Yup, I lost and we didn’t get picked up for another 2 hours or so.

The funny thing is, that’s not even my worst cold water mishap I’ve had! So my buddies and I whilst in Victoria, BC Canada in March, were sitting in the indoor hot tub at a Red Lion inn and someone thought it would be a good idea to jump into the pool outside. Oh, if you didn’t know, March in Canada is still very cold. So off we went. I took a running start and jumped in, landing near the middle of the pool. It was so cold that my whole body felt like I was being stabbed with knitting needles. I was literally seeing stars and felt close to blacking out. When I surfaced, I was too late to shout a warning as I see two of my bro’s in the air about to hit the water. One jumped in close to the side and was ok, getting out almost immediately but the other landed close to where I did and since I hadn’t made it out yet, I went back to get him. After punching each other, trying to decide who’s stupid idea it was, we kinda looked up at the same time and realized the inn’s restaurant had the pool as a backdrop and it seemed everyone was staring at us. Some people looked astonished / some shocked and some were laughing really hard at us. So we waved and made our way back into the hot tub.

This recent experience brought back so many memories, I just had to share. Hopefully, my mishaps can spare someone a similar incident although it was kinda fun! Oh, I almost forgot, while taking pics in the pool, I slipped and almost dunked my camera! Lucky the pool was so shallow. Although the pool is mosaic tiled, there was enough “slime” on the bottom to negate the grip of the grout lines. Anyways, that’s another thing worth checking before starting any shenanigans in an unfamiliar pool, haha.

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

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63 Bangkok Boutique Bed & Breakfast

 Hello again, everyone! If you’ve been following my whirlwind 2 week trip to Bangkok where I learned a bit about daily life in Bangkok then you’ll know that I didn’t mention where I stayed before I managed to rent a place for 5 months. Yup, the place I stayed at is the title of this post and here I’ll tell you all about it. If you haven’t read my previous post about my trying to rent a place in Bangkok, it’s in this post, Bangkok Dangerous – a temporary relocation experience.

My trip was on such short notice (I was on the plane within 12 hours) meant I couldn’t be so stringent with choosing a place to stay. After a really quick search on Expedia, I chose the 63 Bangkok Boutique Bed & Breakfast. Please keep in mind that I chose the cheapest, single occupant room I could find which set me back about $29 Sgd per night.
So, what do you get for $29?  Anything you wa…Just kidding.

The hotel is right on Sukumvit Road, which is a main road and a very busy one at that. Right at the entrance of the hotel, maybe about 6 steps away is the up escalator to Ekkamai BTS station. Having said that, I didn’t hear any traffic noise even though I was on the 3rd floor, which should be right about train level but I couldn’t tell since my room didn’t have a window which is probably why I couldn’t hear the traffic. When I booked the hotel, I knew the station was close, but I had no idea it was this close.

 The lobby is quite roomy, clean and has a nice comfy vibe to it. The hotel has an elevator just beside the stairs and because of the decor (is my excuse) I didn’t notice there was an elevator until the receptionist told me as I headed to the stairs with my luggage. Towards the back, past the stairs is the seating area for the free breakfast and what looks like a coffee shop but I’ve never seen anyone eating or having coffee over there. I’ve seen people just hanging out, though. There’s also a couple of beauty shops (nails and hair I think) back there. Half a floor up there is a shared office type setup as well as another beauty salon. The hallways and elevator lobby areas are actually quite spacious and from what I could tell each floor has a huge fan to help with air cooling and circulation. I was not expecting that at all.


Since I was on the third floor I chose to use the stairs and noticed that the steps are not of uniform height and the ceiling seems a bit low so watch your step and mind your head if you’re over 5 feet 10 inches tall.

Into the room I go. Really not much to talk about as far as rooms go. It’s four walls with a wall mounted shelf and clothes rod, a wall mounted tv, a single bed, a mini fridge, small bedside table, a desk with a chair and a washroom. It’s small but I’ve been in smaller.

The room was clean and there weren’t any weird smells. The sheets were clean but I did find a hole in them. I didn’t watch tv but there was power to the cable box and the standby lights were on so I guess they work. The power outlets were easy enough to find and access which was nice. The aircon worked but the funny thing was, when it got too cold and I turn the cooling off but kept the fan on, I felt it getting hard to breathe so I turned the cooling back on and that feeling went away. The fridge doesn’t work too well but better than nothing. As for room security, well, the door locks when you close it but there isn’t a double lock or security lock. No safe either so I did what I usually do, find something wall mounted and loop my laptop cable lock through it and secure the other end in my padlocked suitcase. Not great but better than nothing.

Now for the washroom. At first glance it looks fine maybe a bit gloomy because of the gray colored walls but when you look closer you’ll find that it’s actually more like an unfinished wall because the sections of wall making up shower area are tiled the rest is not. Originally the shower “stall” had a glass door but it’s gone, replaced by a spring loaded curtain rod holding up a plastic shower curtain. No big deal right? Well it wouldn’t be but somehow a lot of water escapes and pools around the toilet and the water doesn’t go down the drain that is located between the shower and the toilet because the water pools mostly on the other side. For the most part the walls and floor of the washroom are clean but there are noticeable mold/mildew patches at the bottom corners of the shower stall. If you’re opposed to this you can wear slippers. I used a pair of $2 slippers from Daiso (for the wet floor not the shower stall). They’re really light and make good padding for soft “carry on” duffel bags. Although there were the usual hotel amenities like shower soap an stuff, I never use them, especially if they are in a bulk dispenser mounted on the wall. Housekeeping doesn’t come around unless you ask them to and when you do they may not have enough clean towels to give you. In my case it was only a hand towel. Not too big of a deal unless you want your bottle of free water per day. Like many Asian countries, flushing toilet paper is not “allowed” so you dispose of your used toilet paper in the little uncovered trash can beside the toilet. OK, maybe the no daily housekeeping is a big deal.

What’s around the hotel? Well, beside the hotel there’s a coffee shop and on the other, a temple. At night the street food vendors come out and as will the occasional less fortunate people with their “tip jars.” On the opposite side of the street is a “Mediplex” and the Gateway mall with the usual shops and food outlets but outside they have like a sidewalk sale setup with local crafts and on weekends you can get some farm fresh produce. Being right at Ekkamai BTS station means most of the touristy shopping places are close by like Terminal 21, Paragon, Siam and MBK which are all just a few train stops away, as is the station to transfer to the airport train (Phaya Thai station). I would highly recommend not crossing the street unless you are fond of playing live action Frogger (I think these days they call it Crossy Roads). Instead just go up the escalator and walk through the station to the other side where you’ll end up right at the entrance of the mall. Don’t worry you won’t have to enter or exit the gantry.

For what it’s worth, the room was just what I needed it to be and at a cost I was willing to pay. The hotel is nice enough for me to stay in again if I ever needed to and I’m pretty sure there are nicer rooms available if you’re so inclined to check them out.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

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The Signature Hotel @ Thapae Review

Signage at the entrance of The Signature Hotel @Thapae

The Signature hotel @ Thapae (in Chiang Mai, Thailand) was the perfect hotel for me because it was only a 3 minute walk from the dental clinic that I had chosen to have my treatment done at. Check out my dental vacation post for more info on why I chose to have my teeth fixed in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My online search for accommodations was actually really frustrating as I was juggling the cost of a 16 night stay with proximity to the clinic balanced with cost as well as safety/security and cleanliness. There are a lot of accommodations around Chiang Mai’s Old City ranging from hostels to 3 star hotels. The four and five star hotels are further out from the Old City. After having walked around and seen much of the area, I consider myself very fortunate to have chosen The Signature Hotel @Thapae.

I basically skipped over the hostels, even if they offered private rooms. These hostel are really inexpensive. I’ve never tried staying in one but considered it at one point until I realized I needed somewhere safe to store my camera gear while I was at the dental clinic. So I started looking into 3 star hotels because the lower starred ones, I think, were also the hourly ones but don’t quote me on that.  Plus a lot of the reviews on cleanliness wasn’t flattering at all for many of them. There were quite a few 3 star hotels in the area around the Tha Phae Gate, where the dental clinic I went to, Dental4U is located (just a hop, skip and a jump away).  I had a difficult time choosing one but I finally settled on The Signature Hotel @Thapae because it had the least amount of negative reviews (well, negative in terms of what I wouldn’t tolerate). What I mean by that is the complaints of neighbors being too loud is something I chalk up to as “normal” and things like “room was too small” don’t really bother me because I only use a hotel room to sleep and I don’t need much room for that. The reviews that do bother me are the cleanliness ones and safety/security ones. Another major consideration for me was vicinity to food. With my many food allergies I wanted to know where some major fast food outlets and their distances to the hotel. There was one that I was seriously looking into because there is a 24hr McDonald’s on the premises but the cost is significantly higher per night than the Signature Hotel plus I got a really good discount booking it via Expedia. The great thing about booking through Expedia is that you pay the hotel via Expedia so there’s less opportunities for checkout shenanigans like what happened to me at the Datong Hotel in China. Oh, the fast food joints are within 10 minutes walking from The Signature Hotel @Thapae.

When the taxi driver dropped me off in front of the hotel I was like, “what the heck? Where is it?” The driver pointed down this lane looking walkway and I thought, “aw **** what did I did I book this time….” Once out of the taxi I had to cross the road, although it was a one way street it was pretty busy and in between the vehicles there were mopeds, scooters and motorcycles zipping and weaving about. Walking down the path was pretty nice actually. It was mid afternoon and an employee was spraying water on the plants on either side of the walkway and wetting the pavement in an effort to cool the area down. Once seeing the hotel at the end of the path, I was relieved, it looks good, clean and well maintained as opposed to some of the ones I’ve seen on the way there in the taxi. I walked through the door and was greeted cordially by the front desk employee who was checking in other guests at the time. When it was my turn to check in, he apologized for the delay and proceeded to get me checked in but couldn’t match the name on my passport to the name I used to book. When I told him to look under ‘Ray’ he exclaimed “OH! It’s you…we upgraded your room, for free of course, because the room you booked is too small to stay in for 16 days!” All I could say was, “awesome!” After getting my room key and a printout map highlighting where the local areas of interest were as well as “good” restaurants he remarked that 16 days was a long stay and that I must really like Chiang Mai, I chuckled and told him this is my first time here and that the dental clinic that I was here for needed 14 days to complete my treatment he looked surprised/shocked and wished me well and pointed to a stack of binders with tour info in them that I could peruse if I wanted. I thanked him and went up to my room. It’s worth mentioning that everyone I’ve come across in the hotel could converse with me in English and every single one was polite and courteous…every single time I saw them. It was quite refreshing especially the days when my mouth was sore/sensitive and those time when I was hangry (angry when hungry) because I couldn’t eat yet. Be sure to have some cash when you check in, as there is a $1000 TBH deposit fee refundable upon presentation of the receipt at check out.

Narrow driveway leading to the entrance of The Signature Hotel @Thapae in the morning.

Narrow driveway leading to the entrance of The Signature Hotel @Thapae at night

Below are some photos of the room. As you can see, the room is quite nice! Well, I’m impressed, I’ve been in worse and certainly not expecting this nice a room for the price I was paying. So awesome! There’s a bathroom, a closet, a full length mirror on the wall, a safe, a mini fridge, a night stand and a desk and a huge bed with a cushioned step (I have no idea what that’s for. I used it to put my phone on). Also plenty of outlets for me to plug my devices in. The only thing fixed so that you can secure your laptop on with a laptop cable lock is the metal bar to hang your clothes on in the closet. Not really a problem for me as my laptop (more like a netbook) will fit in the safe. I do use a laptop cable lock to secure my rolling suitcase for when I have to leave some camera gear in the room. Basically I loop the cable through the closet’s metal rod and the tumbler section of the lock goes into my suitcase and I use the built in zippers TSA lock mechanism to lock the zippers. The space between the zippers has just enough room for the cable to fit through. The room had no odor, the toilet was clean, as was the shower stall (I read a review that the shower stall was really dirty, so I brought slippers and never used them) and a large sink. The sliding closet door also doubles as the bathroom door, meaning when you close the closet, the bathroom is open and when you open the closet, the bathroom is closed. No biggie, only me in the room so I never have to close the door while in the bathroom. House keeping comes everyday and replenishes/changes what you’ve used, like the soap, shampoo, sanitary pads…at one point I had like 8 of them because I kept putting them on the shelf under the sink along with the other stuff I don’t use. Anyways, they finally noticed and stopped giving them to me. On the days, I was too tired/sore/lazy to get up and requested not to have my room cleaned, they’d tie a plastic bag on my door handle with two bottles of water. I’m not a big water drinker but there in Chiang Mai OMG it feels like I’m in a desert and along with those 2 free bottles of water a day, I consume 2 bottles of Gatorade and at least one more bottle of water! It’s SOOOOO HOT THERE (late April to mid May)!

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The only thing that I wished were better at the Signature Hotel @Thapae is the food. Why? Because there isn’t any. The restaurant was “permanently closed” but the seating is still there. No vending machines either. Not that big a deal I guess, as there are street vendors, restaurants and a 7-11 within a minute’s walk. Speaking of restaurants, there is one called Ratana’s Kitchen a few shops down from The Signature Hotel, the food there is good and the prices are lower than any of the restaurants up and down the street though not tourist prices they are higher than the mom and pop shops. What else is up and down the street? Of course there are massage shops, as far as I can tell, the legit ones, as there aren’t any curtains or barriers so any “extras” will be seen by all. There are quite a few jewelry stores (silver), some art shops, tour agencies and a coin op laundry mat which was well lit and very clean! A packet of detergent costs $10 TBD as does a packet of softener. The washers and dryers are a bit small and costs $40 TBD each. Takes about 2 hours to get a load washed and dried. I had to do laundry twice because everyday my outfit will be sweat soaked! The hotel did have laundry service but I figured it was more expensive, plus it was a great way to use up the $10 TBD coins that were getting pretty heavy.

NOTE: when I went to checkout with my luggage, I took the elevator down and noticed that there was a sign indicating that some snacks and drinks were available for purchase at the front desk, don’t know how I missed it but I did (you can’t see any drinks or snacks at the front desk either).

Some final notes on the Signature Hotel: It’s very close, as in walking distance, to many of the touristy stuff as well as the night life. I didn’t see any real parking areas on the premises, just enough space around the entrance to fit 2 vehicles or one vehicle and maybe 5 or 6 mopeds/scooters/motorcycles so if you’re planning on renting something, keep that in mind. Also note the width of the path, it’s just barely wide enough to fit an SUV. Oh, a few more hangers would have been nice too, I only had three.

I’m really impressed with this hotel, some of the fixtures and things look pretty new, especially the elevator which uses touch buttons like on your smart phone, I found it kinda annoying because my fingers sometimes aren’t able to ‘activate’ the sensor (on my phone too) and so I have to press/touch repeatedly to get things to work, I ended up just using the stairs as I was only 1 flight up. The aircon unit the room is the split type and the outside section is right outside the window so if you’re not used to hearing aircon noise or you’re a light sleeper, it may disturb you. I only really noticed the aircon when I first get back to the room and turn it on then it quickly just fades from my mind.

Elevator touch panels inside

Elevator touch panels outside

My overall impression of the Signature Hotel @Thapae is that it is more than adequate for a family vacation hotel. The price was great for the quality of room and the service/staff was awesome too. When I go back to Chiang Mai, I will definitely be staying there again.

I will be posting more about my shenanigans in Chiang Mai. Consider following me for updates on this Chiang Mai trip or to find not only my toys and collectibles posts but also my travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans posts, photography related news/reviews posts and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

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My journey to the Pingyao International Photography Festival 2017

Documenting my journey into China. I thought it would be a good idea to visit some historic sites on my way to the Pingyao International Photography Festival 2017, which is the largest photography festival in China and set within the ancient city walls of Pingyao in the Shanxi province. Hopefully my exploits will help some of you if you happen be in similar situation(s). I will put my visit to each tourist site in separate posts with links in this post. It was quite a privilege for me to participate as part of the Photographic Society of Singapore’s curated contingent. Here’s me with my entries:

My large prints on exhibit at the Pingyao International Photography Festival 2017

My large prints on exhibit at the Pingyao International Photography Festival 2017

NOTE: Yuan and Renmenbi are used interchangeably as the name for China’s currency. Yuan is the official name, I think.

My daughter and I flew out of Singapore on China Eastern Airlines into Shanghai’s Pudong Airport and had a few hours layover before our flight to Datong so we got some breakfast and ate it at the gate lobby. Although the flight was on time and we were sitting outside the gate, we almost missed the flight!!! Between my daughter and myself we heard only one call to board roughly 30 minutes before the printed boarding time on our boarding pass. As we got to the counter, we noticed that we were at last call with roughly 10 minutes left and being rushed and a bunch of people were starting to stir behind us. Apparently, there were 2 flights leaving from this gate and the attendants were sifting through the passengers. So we got through with a bunch of other people and had to get on a bus, there was enough of us stragglers to fill the bus! Then it took us roughly 25 minutes to get to the plane. We all boarded the plane, no hassles, plenty of overhead cabin space and the flight went by smooth. No horror stories, no bad service, zip. Three hours later we land in Datong

View of Datong Airport’s terminal from the runway.

Datong airport has a tourist transportation kiosk that you can see as soon as you step past security after collecting your bags, it’s a big red sign in English. The lady we spoke to didn’t speak English though but we managed to ascertain that the free bus that goes into the city had just left and that a taxi would cost 50 yuan. So instead of wait 30 min. for the next free bus (which would have stopped in front of our hotel) we chose to take the taxi she walked us out to get the cab and made sure the driver knew that the fare would be 50 yuan. The ride by (speeding) taxi was roughly 30 min. I imagine the bus would take twice as long.

NOTE: I was told prior to leaving for this trip that everything was negotiable and that it is imperative that you ask for the price BEFORE you get into the taxi. This lady dictating/reinforcing the fare really set this process in my mind.

Our Itinerary (will link to reviews when I write them):
First Day: Yungang Grottoes.
Second Day: Wooden Pagoda, Hanging Temple, Hengshan mountain
Third Day: Datong Great Wall and inner city walk around.
My full review of Datong Hotel

So we got to the hotel, Datong Hotel, roughly 20 minutes later and was able to check in early. There was a guy (tall with glasses) that could speak a bit of English that helped us check in. He took my details and was quite pleasant. He informed me that I had to use my credit card for security deposit and I understood a charge of 1/3 the quoted price would be charged. He actually charged 1/3 over the quoted price and said the difference would be “returned”. I didn’t really think I’d get ripped off and if I did I can dispute, right? Not really. Anyways, got the keys and went to the room to drop off our suitcases. We were excited and wanted to go see stuff already. We spent roughly 3 days and 3 nights in Datong. There are many eateries around but none looked like they would have English menus so we just picked a joint that had pictures on the wall and pointed out our order. Here’s a picture of the hotel front yard:

Datong Hotel

Front view of Datong Hotel.


The hotel is old, but not dirty. A bit dark in places but overall, ok. It’s kind of close to many of Datong’s attraction.  Only ran into 3 staff that could converse, kind of, in English. All were front desk staff. Although the hotel’s rates are relatively inexpensive beware of this scheme:

My quote from was in the amount of 684 Yuan for 3 nights. Upon checkout, they did not reverse the security deposit charge and charge the subsequent correct amount of 812 yuan (we room charged dinner one night in the amount of 128 yuan). When questioned, they punched a bunch of stuff into the machine it spit out a long paper that had the correct amounts on it but was difficult to read. Now going on at the same time, the taxi we had arranged, had not shown up yet (20 min late) and I was worried we would miss our train to Pingyao. So I figured I would give them the benefit of the doubt and deal with this through my credit card if necessary. Also the converted potential loss would be around $38 dollars (my currency) which would be cheaper than missing my train.

UPDATE: As of 9/30/17 The security deposit is gone from my credit card statement and the proper charge is reflected.

So we got the hotel to get us a taxi to the train station. It cost 15 yuan and took roughly 20 min. We got to the train station, went through security, bought some drinks and took a toilet break, 10 min later it was boarding time. Here’s the train station:

Datong’s railway station.

TIP: get your tickets early and try not to get the standing or hard seats (standing literally means standing in the aisle of the hard seat section). I used (their website’s in English and you can pay via Mastercard or Visa) and collected the tickets the day before the train ride (again 15 yuan from Hotel). Take a picture of your ticket(s) before you board.

Although the sign says pick up tickets here (where the lady in yellow is in the above picture), behind all those doors is the security line of bag x-ray machines and security personnel with metal detectors. To pick up tickets, go through security and walk down the corridor on the right (as if you had walk straight through the doors where the lady in yellow is in the photo above). The corridor opens up and you’ll see ticket counters from which you can get your tickets. If you’re catching your train, after security check, show your ticket to the last security personnel and they’ll point you in the direction you need to go. Well at least that worked for us, the lady security guard even spoke the directions in English.

We booked the Hard Sleeper seats which are bunk beds three high on either side of a cubicle. One train car has like 4 or 5 cubicles. I couldn’t pick seats so we got one way at the top and one on the opposite side bottom (at least we were in the same cubicle. Don’t be surprised if someone is on your bunk, they will move when you get there if not show your picture of your ticket. The person who took your ticket when you boarded the train will give you a plastic card when the train starts moving. This card is what you will need to show if you get questioned when/if you walk around. There is a dining car, but was locked when we tried to get food. You give back the plastic card when the train personnel comes by presumably to tell you your stop is coming up.

Train tickets from Datong to Pingyao

Plastic cards given on train with seat/bunk number

TIP: Know how many stops and keep count of the stops you’ve passed. There are either NO SIGNAGE or they are very hard to see/find or not in English. Arrival time may be off by 15 min (ours was and we almost didn’t get off the train, a fellow passenger my daughter befriended told us that we needed to get off the train). Some train stops seems really close together so it may not be obvious even though the train personnel came to take the plastic card. Here’s the Pingyao train station (slow train) the high speed train station is some where else.

Pingyao train station platform.

Outside of Pingyao Train Station.

The outside of the station had some construction going on so I couldn’t get a better frontal shot. But all you would need is the characters on top of the building to show anyone if you needed to get to Pingyao’s regular train station (as in not the high speed train station).

So we booked a hotel (Hong Changyu Inn, review here) within the ancient city walls and while it is technically possible to walk from the train station, I’m guessing 30 min walk. I wouldn’t. We tried and abandoned the task within 5 min. We both had wheeled carry on sized suitcases and the surface is not conducive to rolling them on. The way is a patchwork of nice brick surfaces, to cobblestone to dirt patches. Then the “sidewalk” would end and you’d have to walk on the street (that in itself is a harrowing experience). Better just to get one of those “tuk tuk” looking taxis for 20 yuan or better yet have the hotel go get you some hotels offer it for free mine didn’t.

Due to time constraints I had to limit our stay in Pingyao to 3 days and nights. The Pingyao International Photography Festival spans a week. Within the city there are 22 tourists spots which you can enter using one ticket. Which usually costs 130 Yuan. This ticket  during the festival was on sale for 65 yuan and has a bar code on it that gets scanned at the entry of each tourist destination (sometimes scanning is self service). There are some attractions that aren’t included with the ticket (so look for the turnstyle gate thing). We allotted a whole day (our last day) for the attractions and only finished 11. We did see an additional 2 attractions (temples) from the outside because they were closed. The attractions close around 18:00 / 18:30. So keep that in mind. Pingyao Ancient city is way bigger than it seems especially if you plan to walk everything.

The people are friendly, most can tolerate the language barrier and we found more English practitioners in Pingyao than in Datong. Food prices can very widely and coffee is scarce and when I did find it it was 48 yuan a cup, beer was only 18 yuan and bottle drinks 5 yuan. Street food stall prices vary too. I had a sausage on a stick for 15 yuan at one stall and at a different stall I had two on a stick for 10 yuan.

My review of Pingyao International Photography Festival 2017.

Even being able to speak Cantonese didn’t help with the language barriers as everyone spoke Mandarin, but according to my daughter the Mandarin we encountered is different than what she learned in school. If you can speak another Chinese dialect I would encourage you to try if only to negate the crassness of some people who find it unreasonable that a Chinese person can’t speak “Chinese”.

The hotel we stayed in was the Hong Changyu Inn and it was exactly as advertised on Shaw, the inn keeper can converse in English and was extremely helpful. He also (at my request) arranged a cab to drive us to Taiyuan Airport for 380 yuan (the driver was conscientious and safe). Payment inclusive of security deposit was paid in full upon check in (just remember to get your receipt and you should be fine). Deposit was refunded with no issues. Actually I got 6 yuan extra because neither of us had small bills. Here’s a photo taken from within the courtyard:

Courtyard of Hong Changyu Inn

My review of Hong Changyu Inn

From Taiyuan we flew to Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport, and had 10 hours layover so we rode the subway into town (peoples square), it was raining so not much happening in the park so we walked around the malls, then took the subway to Pudong Airport for the flight back to Singapore. Food prices and trinket stuff in the malls were not so bad but the branded stuff, I found, were more expensive than Singapore. There is a distinct shift in friendliness too, Shanghai being way less friendly than Pingyao, Datong or Taiyuan (though we only spent time in the airport).

There are a lot of bad reviews for China Eastern Airlines but for us, the only thing to complain about was the age of the plane, it was readily apparent. Some planes had no screens for movies, broken tray tables, broken cup holders, torn seats, lumpy seats (I used the blanket as a cushion on one flight). Other than that it’s not bad (especially for the price). Every flight had a meal, AWESOME!. My daughter and I love airplane food! Oh conversing with the flight crew in English may be an issue at times, for example, we asked for apple juice they said yes and gave us orange juice.

I really wish I had more time in both Datong and Pingyao. I really loved both places. The air quality everywhere we went was noticeably bad, especially in the morning. It literally leaves a bad taste in your mouth but by noon most of it was gone, not the taste though. Maybe that’s why people spit so much in China.

1. Horns, bells, whistles and verbal sirens are all indicators that the person is coming through and will not give way (for the most part) so it’s best if you move, especially if you’re a pedestrian.
2. Spitting is loud and everyone does it, it seems. Chances are quite high you’ll step in a big wad of spit/mucous if you don’t watch where you’re going.
3. Children (boys and girls) will pull down their pants and pee wherever. In Pingyao we saw numerous toddlers with pants that had no back side to facilitate the easy of relieving themselves I guess.
4. If you leave even the slightest gap, someone will cut in and think nothing of it, it’s normal. People will get mad or shove you through if you don’t do it.
5. You’ll be lucky if you get a sitting toilet, expect to squat. ALWAYS bring your own tissue.
6. For this trip (since I have a very intolerant digestive system), I followed the pharmacist’s advice and used Duolac then when my stomach got a bit queasy (only 3 times)  I took Imodium. My whole trip I had no problems and was even eating street food!!!
7. Smoking is allowed almost EVERYWHERE it seems.

More Datong photos in this Flickr Album
More Pingyao photos in this Flickr Album