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How to Taste Real Beijing Life

Beijing is a city full of obvious contrasts, with imperial palaces and ancient alleyways crisscrossed with cutting-edge architecture and new shopping malls and tower blocks. Beijing may be running on a fast track but there is still a piece of old Beijing that gives you a taste of its fascinating past.

Beijing Hutong

What is Hutong Life Looks Like
While the rest of the city darting around at a breakneck speed, hutong comes alive at its own pace. With a walk down the Hutong area, you can easily find old men sitting on wooden stools in front of the bungalow, drinking beer, playing chess and chatting with neighbors. Hardly will you see a taxi out there but a few market-goers riding along on their squeaky rickshaws. The crisscrossed maze of lanes is packed with old and walled courtyards. More impressive courtyards are fronted by thick red doors with either a pair of lions or a pair of drum stones standing on both sides. Over the years most of the Hutong neighborhoods have been either torn down or converted into cramped one-storey bungalows, visited only though the narrowest of winding pathways. Living conditions are nothing fancy like those commercial areas in Beijing. The courtyard usually consists of a tiny shed-like kitchen and a few rooms, often with no private toilet. But the Hutong residences are very hospital and friendly.

How to Soak Up Hutong Life
Nowadays, with a large number of Hutong areas demolished, Hutong is on the brink of disappearance. Thankfully, in recent years, some of alleyway courtyards are well preserved, with buildings marked by white stone plaques. So a real taste of Hutong life is really worthwhile while visiting Beijing. The best way to taste the hutong life is to simply stroll down the alleys, either on foot or by bicycle. Best destinations to start your trip to Hutong include the areas surrounding the Drum Tower, as well as bar-filled street alley called Nanluogu Xiang and those alleys sitting to the southwest of Tiananmen Square, known as Dashilan. For those who really want to dig deeper into Hutong, you really should consider visiting the imperial hutong courtyards, including those once lived by those celebrities, former high-rank officials or princes, mainly concentrating in the area to the northeast of Jingshan Park, just north of the Forbidden City.

Overall, a Hutong experience while visiting Beijing is not to be missed!