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No 'tourists go home' in Pingyao

Tour companies and tourists alike have been confronted this past northern summer by angry folk, posters and pushback from cities complaining about their presence. From Venice and Rome to the Adriatic ports cruise liners pull into, locals have been agitating against the influx of tourists in their streets, cafes and shops. 'Its an invasion', they cry.

Certainly, anyone who has been jostled in the no-longer quiet of Notre Dame or queued for ages to tour the Alhambra knows that they are but one among hundreds of thousands of tourists who have stood in that spot, taken that memorable photo and bought that rare trinket - and that's just that summer! It is easy to understand the frustration of local residents who cannot go about their daily business without having to swerve to avoid packs of shorts-clad behemoths trudging down the street, or being run through by selfie-stick wielding youth more intent on insta-gratification than on lingering meditative engagement.

Thankfully, traveling China in winter is anything but over-crowded. It is a great time to visit: crisp days, stark leafless tree limbs set against stunning skies and a slower pace that enables friendly relating with the locals.

While there are obviously always people around because the most populous country in the world doesn't simply shut down in hibernation, there are not hordes of tourists cutting swathes through the country-side.

This means that sites like the Great Wall are easier to climb, Tiananmen Square is much less crowded and out-of-the-way smaller cities like Pingyao - whose smaller streets and laneways can be wall-to-wall group tours in the summer - are a delight to wander down. Locals are not shaking angry fists at the barbarians passing through their gates but are smiling and welcoming, happy to pass the time in conversation.

Pingyao is not only a fascinating place to visit (see this section of our webpage too) it is also home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage listed temples and sites. Two of these - Zhenguo and Shuanglin Temples - are a little ways outside the walls of the old city and are well worth the visit. Centuries old, both display beautiful and historically significant Buddhist statues and carvings and are displayed in architecturally fascinating buildings as well.

When I visited there in January of 2017, it was a cold day, and my brother and I were the only foreigners in the place. We had as much time as we wanted to wander around the temple courtyards, observe the cultural items in their own settings (as opposed to a sterile but warm museum) and wonder at humanity's ingenuity and creativity. These temples are indeed amazing places to visit.

And so Pingyao is now an essential part of our Immersed in China's Winter tour (see here for more details: Immersed in China's Winter Wonderland tour), given the historical significance of the village behind the old city walls, the wooden structures on display and these sites of world heritage, easily accessible and culturally very important.

We hope you join us as Sino-Immersions visits them again in January of 2018!

A gallery of images from Pingyao and its UNESCO World Heritage temples.

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