盘龙村 (PanLong Village) or Bust
PanLong Village is a small cluster of houses on top of a high plateau in North Central China.
When I heard how remote it was, I decided it would be a great adventure to go there myself.
Encouragement from Will Leggett, texted to me as I was leaving (from the morning paper).
Shanghai train station chaos.
Interaction was forced by proximity. Random people would come by and chill out on my bed,
because there was no where else to sit.
I'm now much better at eating melon seeds than before.
The train staff spent most of their time delivering extended sales pitches. The most interesting one was for a book that
detailed an elaborate scheme for rapidly performing arithmetic using one's fingers. The guy selling this must have spent 20 minutes talking
about it. He must have been good because everyone applauded when he was done. Everyone would pay attention to these people. The woman at left
who is trying to keep me from taking her picture, managed to sell me a phone charger. She explained it to me in detail, while everyone in the
adjacent compartments crowded around to watch. Her explanation was entirely in Mandarin, which I didn't understand. The phone charger worked
This girl (six years old) was traveling somewhere with her grandparents. She had more energy than the rest of the people in my bunk area
combined. She was laughing and giggling and talking and repeatedly kicking the bed above her. Angry snarls from her grandmother would result
in a brief respite, however she would soon forget that she wasn't supposed to do it and begin kicking again. These pictures show her playing
with a two dimensional jacob's ladder (very interesting!) that I bought from one of the train conductors.
This guy became my main friend on the train. We were actually able to converse to a limited degree by using translation apps on our cell phones.
In a bizzarre coincidence, it turns out he and I both did work in exactly the same factory building outside of Shanghai!
My train arrived in PingLiang (平凉) 26 hours after leaving Shanghai, (PingLiang is the closest town to PanLong Village). For some reason my phone lost internet connectivity once I reached the city
(so no google maps, and no google translate). These donkeys are actually used to transport goods.
PingLiang is filled with mosques and with Muslims. The Muslim men wear very distinctive white hats- the women wear extremely colorful hair scarves,
often studded with sparkling things. I really wanted to photograph them, but I didn't want to offend anyone. I had to make do with photographing
The first place I visited was the Chunhua Building, where I asked to eat their famous mutton and bread with noodles.
我想去吃一些平凉特色美食。比如 春花楼羊肉泡馍，饸饹面，大刀铡面。It was delicious, and I came back the next day for more.
The air in PinLiang is dry and extremely clean. It's really nice just walking around. The city is criss crossed by several wide tree lined boulevards
that reminded me of Paris. Motor-tricycles are everywhere.
When language fails, I resort to cartoons. This one succeeded in getting me to a bike shop, where I was able to purchase a bike.
PanLong Village (盘龙村) is on top of a high plateau, 30km away from PingLiang. Biking there required sharing the road with large trucks. Because
of this, I discovered that there is no horn louder than the air horn on a Chinese truck. They honk repeatedly when passing you, to let you know
that they're there.
Only a couple hundred people live in PanLong Village. This is one of the main bus stops.
Each home has a large and impressive front door. The characters above the door must be the name of the family living inside.
There didn't appear to be any street names or numbers.
"Where is PanLong Village?" I asked. "Here!" he said, and pointed down at the ground. Certainly his
store seemed like the village epicenter to me.
This couple flagged me down and asked if I wanted to buy some pears. I think 3RMB got me five. The cart
is moved by hand, like a wheelbarrow. When I left, the women was hauling it up the hill.
This is how the price of the pears was determined.
The view was scenic in every direction. And the air was crisp and clean. It was kind of like hiking on Mt. Tamalpais.
PingLiang has a large number of well kept public parks and open areas. I spent a lot of time juggling in the
one with this historical pagoda. The guy at right kept telling me to photograph the pagoda instead of his
These are unsuccessful attempts to capture the vast openness of the sky above PingLiang. Really, you have to be there to appreciate it.
My dinner for two nights consisted of spiced bread, spiced meat, and beer, cooked and eaten out on the sidewalk. Deliciousness for only 26RMB.
Close up view of a hand cart for hauling stuff.
Biked to KongTong Mountain (崆峒山) and hiked to the top.
The top of the mountain has several ancient Taoist temples. Notice the monk on the left. Also, notice how blue and clear the sky is. It felt like Switzerland.
Three dimensional trees!
Another great view.
The temples are filled with nooks and crannies, and unlikely passageways.
From the moment I arrived in PingLiang, heads would turn wherever I went. One guy actually crashed his bicycle into the curb
because he was gaping at me. Little kids would stare, while older people (like those below) would photograph me with their
phones. My policy became to fight fire with fire.
Better pictures of me exist on random phones in PingLiang.
Spices ground fresh at market. Olfactory overload!
I had to hazard a vicious barking dog to take these photographs.
My breakfast every morning consisted of fried bread. Like a donut, except without sugar.
Early morning bus trip to Xi'an.
Sunburned me and lots of terra cotta warriors.
Terra cotta close ups.