It’s no secret that my favourite parts of Beijing are the hutong areas. The hutong are small alleyways, or lanes, made up of traditional low rise, courtyard homes. Whilst it’s true that large areas have been demolished, many of the remaining areas are now protected to preserve the traditional architecture and history. The hutong (I don’t think adding an s for a plural is correct, although people often do when speaking English. A kind of a reverse Chinglish, I guess!) are fascinating to me. You can walk down one lane (for example Wudaoying- one of my favourites for food and coffee stops) and see cute boutiques, cafes and delicious vegetarian restaurants.While the next one you stumble upon might still be purely residential and full of traditional Chinese life experience, such as getting a haircut on the street and watching old men playing Chinese checkers. Many hutong homes (apart from the modern, refurbished ones which you may be lucky enough to find if you fancy living there) are still without toilets. There are communal bathrooms on every street.
Justin and I often like to head to the hutong on a Friday or Saturday. Sometimes we will just head to an area and start wandering. Other times we will head to a specific restaurant to eat and then see what else we find by simply walking around afterwards. We like looking for the tiny “here today, gone tomorrow” kind of bars that seem to be opened in the front rooms of peoples homes. You can often find a nice outdoor veranda to sip a Tsingtao on and have the place all to yourself.
Last Friday we decided to head down to the original Great Leap brewery (a favourite pub in Beijing). There’s a larger location in Sanlitun but I prefer this one, tucked away in Doujiao hutong. I love walking down sometimes eerily quiet, residential lanes and then coming upon the walled courtyard of the Great Leap. It feels miles away from the heaving, traffic congested roads of Beijing. I almost feel like I’m in a little village, it’s so peaceful. It was the perfect evening to sip fantastic craft beer (there are so many choices ) outside in the warm weather. I am really enjoying Beijing in the late (almost) Summer.
After we’d had enough craft beer and pizza, we headed back home via Nanluoguxiang- one of the more famous hutong. I tend to stay away from there as it’s so packed with tourists and souvenir shops and I don’t really enjoy it. It’s not calm and peaceful like many of the other hutong. Although I do admit there are a few nice looking places down there amongst the souvenir shops. We stopped for frozen yoghurt and it was delicious! I also half considered buying a puppy from a cardboard box but decided to settle with just oohing and aahing over it for a while. There seem to be an influx of street puppies for sale at the moment; it must be the summer air!