In an increasingly globalized and modern world, it is difficult to find the romanticism and the true experience of traveling back in time; especially for foreigners who already have experience traveling within China.
In most people's view, their idea of China is an imaginary country filled with small streets that have no cars and which are full of shops with posters featuring large Chinese characters.
These ideas are usually drawn from 20th century paintings that feature the country as it existed decades ago.
However, most of this antiquity has succumbed to big cities and a world of cement and cars. That is why it is very rare for travelers to find a place today that lives up to the past.
This is why it is important to visit and live in these places and experience the adventure there, before, for various reasons, these places cease to exist.
An ancient city
After learning that Pingyao in Shanxi Province is called by many a "medieval city," I didn't hesitate to organize a visit there.
Pingyao itself is quite small. According to a local population census, 502,712 people live in the city.
The city is the model of an ancient city. Unlike the capital of Beijing, its old city walls still stand.
They were originally constructed during the reign of the Ming Dynasty's (1368-1644) Emperor Hongwu.
The north and south side walls each have one gate, whereas the east and west walls have two gates each.
Pingyao was the one of the financial centers of China during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
However, it finally went bankrupt in 1914, right after the dynasty fell.
The ancient city of Pingyao was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 due to its high degree of conservation in addition to being the first banking capital and financial center of China.
It was like the Wall Street of the times, so one can imagine its glory during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The first time you go to Pingyao, you should make sure you go through the old train station located in the highly populated heart of the city.
The most convenient option to get to the station from elsewhere in China is to first head to Shanxi's capital of Taiyuan and from there take a bus or taxi to the historic old town.
If you don't mind missing out on the old station, there is also the recently upgraded Pingyao Gucheng station, which hosts a high-speed rail.
With this station, the journey from Beijing to Pingyao Ancient City has been shortened to just four hours, making the journey much more convenient.
This highly advanced infrastructure development has made it much easier to visit Pingyao. For example, one weekend I departed to Pingyao from Beijing early on Saturday and returned to the capital on Sunday afternoon.