Friday, November 29, 2013

China: Beijing Hutong

I spent a few days in Beijing doing some sightseeing and a hike on the Great Wall at Jiankou.

First I have to tell about my hutong experience. I wanted to get an authentic Chinese living experience in a city of about 17 million people so I decided to stay in a hutong (I first had to figure out what that was) instead of a regular hotel. And I was not

The place where I stayed is a really old building - more than 200 years old with three courtyards and rooms overlooking each courtyard. I stayed in the last courtyard which was traditionally used for unmarried daughters. I haven't been an unmarried daughter for more than 43 years!

Sign in front of my room


My room (on the right)

Then I entered the room and it was such a wonderful surprise. There was a lovely 4-poster bed which looked very authentically Chinese. And why shouldn't it? This is a hutong in Beijing after all!  There was a nice little sitting area in the very compact room with bottled water and a kettle with packages of tea and coffee if I want to have some.

Then I went into the bathroom which was another surprise. It was as ultra-modern as nay bathroom I have seen in a 5 star hotel in North America. The bathroom was proportionately larger than the room and the water is heated geothermally. The tiled floor was warm and there was a heat lamp in the shower to create a toasty space when drying off.  It was such a well-balanced blend of old and new with a modern bathroom in the very traditional hutong.

I unpacked a few things and headed off to check out the surrounding streets. The walk was an experience in sensory overload with all the sounds, smells and signs, that it was hard to decide where to look, what to focus my eyes on and to distinguish what I was smelling.

I finally settled on something familiar - churros. This is what I have at nights when I am in Mexico so finding it in the middle of Beijing brought a smile to me.

 Yummy churros

Street in hutong district

All in all, it was another good day of immersion in the Chinese culture.