Since we had to get train tickets from Pingyao to Xian, we were told by friends we met that their guesthouse would be able to obtain the train tickets for us for the next night. So we went to Tian Yuan Kui Guesthouse on Nan Dajie to ask them to purchase the tickets for us. We specifically asked for 2 soft sleepers. She was on the phone immediately and then told us that soft sleepers not guaranteed for the 8pm train but for sure will have for the 11pm train to Xian. So we told her to get us the 11pm soft sleepers to Xian the next night. The tickets costs 202 and 210, but we were charged 502 which was fine by us since it was such a late notice during National Week and we had expected to pay commission. We were told to go back the next day at 6pm to pick up the tickets. We were so relieved that we were able to settle that part of the journey at last after weeks of trying.
The next day at around 7pm, we went to pick up the tickets. We were given a copy of the fax with two tickets on it. I was ok with it because I had read from other bloggers that that happened before. But I double checked with the girl and she explained that the actual tickets would be on the train with the conductor, we just needed to show the copy. On further examination, my husband noticed that the date printed on them were for the night before!!! OMG, I could not believe it! We asked the girl, and she acted a bit shocked and stumped as well. Then she called the "agent" and asked about the tickets. Basically the girl and the guy on the phone both just pushed the responsibility toward each other and we were stuck in the middle! After a time, she asked me if hard sleeper was ok. By that time it was almost 8pm. The train was going to leave Taiyuan in an hour, and there were still hard sleeper left?! I had lost my confidence and was worried that they might just fax me a copy of someone else's tickets for that night, then what would we do then? no money and no beds?! So I asked the girl to give my money back, and it took another 10-15 minutes before she reluctantly handed over the money. Now we were frantic and I went to guesthouses along the way back to our hotel to ask about getting us train tickets, some refused saying that nothing was available anymore and some said that they would only do it for their guests staying with them. So we were out of luck! Before reaching our hotel, I decided to stop by another guesthouse called De Ju Yuan to ask them if they could get me the tickets. I explained the situation to them without mentioning the guesthouse and when they asked me which guest house it was, I pretended I couldn't remember but just mentioned that it was on the mainstreet. They immediately asked me if it was Tian Yuan Kui Hotel. Now that got my mind going.....
The girls were so helpful and nice and they called their "agent" to see if anything was available but unfortunately by then, the train had left Taiyuan and nothing could be done. I then asked them many more questions regarding getting out of Pingyao to go back to Taiyuan or to Xian directly from Pingyao. They told me the options regarding trains and buses. The bottom line was to get out of Pingyao, the safest bet was to go back to Taiyuan. They also arranged a car to take us back to Taiyuan that night and charged reasonable price of 360Y which was the market rate. Our hotel YunJinCheng wanted to charge us 450Y! As for the bus, I was told that it would be impossible to catch a bus to Xian as there were no buses originating from Pingyao so one would have to go to the highway to flag one down, but somehow that is not "illegal".
Obviously if you could get the tickets yourself, it may be the safest bet. Be sure to read my tip on how to get train ticket at Taiyuan train station.
I am no sure how long the Pingyao council will allow the wall to stay as it is before they get hit with possible insurance claims. It would be a shame to alter it in any way.
The city wall has a charm all to itself but there are no walls on the inside to stop people falling off. If you have children I would be extra careful and think twice about taking them up if they are at all boisterous!
A torch may be needed when visiting sites because as it gets dark some of the exhibits do not have lighting.
You will also need lighting in terms of the narrow stairs you may need to climb and low overhead beams.
Pingyao was undergoing a serious road renovation program when we were there. This meant that some streets were off limits in terms of riding bicycles.
The other complication was that our taxi could not park outside our hotel which meant that our cases had to be carried some distance to the taxi.
People are trying to bring you to "nice" hotels. They are not dangerous, but these hostels are not in the old city, which will ruin a lot of fun.
Solution: make the booking in advance, and the hostel will have someone to pick you up