Monday, August 9, 2010

Around Town

Since we have been to China and Beijing several times, we don't spend a lot of time shopping or visiting tourist attractions any longer. However, this year we had a special treat. Several of our students were from Beijing and Lydia's husband wanted to thank us for being such a help for his wife. He wanted to take a Saturday afternoon and give us a tour of whatever we wanted to see in Beijing! I'll tell you more about Lydia later, but her husband was born and raised in Beijing, and had been a local TV photo-journalist as well, so he really knew the city. His current job was in public relations for one of the districts of Beijing, so he had a special government pass on his car. All that meant that we had a personal driving tour of some of the most intimate parts of the city.

When we travel, we like to see the REAL city, so we were especially thankful for the offer. We told him we would like to see the Bird's Nest and Olympic Park, but then we wanted to see some Hutongs -- the oldest parts of the city which are now designated as national landmarks. They are the old single story neighborhoods that have several homes built around a courtyard, usually for the extended families. Most have been torn down to build high rises, so even though many are dilapidated, they are some of the more expensive properties in the city. Some that have been restored sell for millions of dollars. In any case, our tour included the Hutong where James, our guide was born, as well as several other areas of "real Beijing". We were delighted to have this tour in a comfortable air conditioned car with someone who knew the city well and could tell us about the things we were seeing.

The picture at the beginning is of an old man playing a Chinese string instrument. We were surprised that he wasn't expecting any money. We were told that the people are encouraged to practice their skills in the parks and open areas, so that is what he is doing. Below are some of the shops and a restaurant on the neighborhood streets. Check out the outdoor dining area of the restaurant in the first picture. Hint: look on the roof! My favorite is the one with the bicycles -- it is a second hand store -- just like in American, except with Chinese junk.

These are some doors to actual courtyards, and the third picture is a glimpse into a courtyard. Apparently it was laundry day.

The last three pictures are from a friend, but I think are beautiful depictions of the "real Beijing".

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