Possibly the best-preserved ancient walled city in China, Píngyáo has a movie-set charm that makes the hearts of even the most hardened expats skip a beat. But it’s not just the superficial beauty of red lanterns swaying against grey-brick walls that makes Píngyáo special; it’s the fact that the entire town is still in existence – and unmarred by bathroom tiles. Wander at random through the cobbled, dusty streets and you’ll come across government offices, residences and temples, offering rare insight into various aspects of life in imperial China.
It should be no surprise that Píngyáo is mobbed with megaphone-wielding tour groups on weekends and holidays, particularly when the weather is nice. But get beyond the main souvenir strip and it remains very much a real town: the locals are still hanging laundry in courtyards, careening down alleyways on bicycles or sunning themselves in doorways, unchanged even in fame.