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- | Beijing, China – Day 1 – Hutong & The Belltower

Beijing, China – Day 1 – Hutong & The Belltower

Day 3 The Great Wall
Day 2 Forbidden City

A few weeks ago I went on a vacation to Beijing, China with my friends AJJudy and Marcus. AJ and Judy are two of the girls I went to Japan with for my Japan Ai book. I’ve actually never been to China before, so I was really excited about this trip. (I’ve been to Japan and London before, only.) Beijing has a lot of really famous places that many tourists would want to see, so it made it a perfect place for a first visit, especially since our time was limited. I’ll comment a little about things I learned, but please forgive me if I get something wrong.

Breakfast on the plane on the way to Beijing. NO IDEA what the rice thing with mystery grey stuff was.

The stewardesses (male and female) on the airline I was on, apparently have on-tv American Idol-esque competitions and also have themed planes… Check it out. It’s totally Ouran High School Host Club for the all-male stewardess planes. (Why didn’t I get THAT plane?)

I was to meet AJ, Marcus and Judy in the Beijing airport. (We took flights hours apart.) I had a sheet with important numbers and addresses in Chinese and English thanks to AJ, but I speak absolutely no Chinese. I was a quite a bit scared I wouldn’t be able to find them. This was the only part of the trip were I was a worried, because after this, I was with my crew (which included two Chinese speakers! whee!)
In the airport, I got a bit lost… here’s one of the tunnels I ended up down. (Cue The Shining music…)

Found my girls and we headed to our hotel, The Bamboo Garden. It’s a gorgeous hotel, I highly recommend it. We had a really nice time staying there. It looked totally old-school traditional Chinese, which was what we wanted. You walk down this super-old, a bit run-down-looking alley and then there is the entrance for the hotel and there’s a gorgeous courtyard inside…! It had a beautiful garden as well as a restaurant, massage house and coffee bar. Our rooms had a tv, computer and western-style shower/toilet (YAY!)

This is the shared entry way of our two hotel rooms.

I especially liked the alcove that our beds were in.

We decided to keep it relatively simple our first day and walk around the Hutong area surrounding our hotel and also go to Zhōnglóu (钟楼) (bell tower).

The Hutong area is a really old area with a lot of interlocking narrow alleyways, houses and courtyards. Some of the houses in them have no running water. There aren’t that many Hutong areas left and it seems like some people want to keep some of them for historical purposes, while other people are down on them because of the inefficient, unsanitary and crumbly conditions some people still living in them are experiencing. (Obviously a big apartment complex is more efficient than a one-story hundreds of year old building with no running water…) I have no place to say, but I thought it was interesting and I’m glad we got to stay there and see it.

Marcus, likely waiting for us to figure out where we’re going.

There are these little bike-cars all over the place. Our friend Liz said they’re not that fun to ride in because of the exhaust pipe near your face when you sit in the back. People had a ton of interesting bikes in Beijing. Bikes for collecting garbage, bikes for carrying big piles of dirt and bricks… all sorts.

Zhōnglóu (钟楼) (bell tower).

Climbing the very steep steps to the top of the belltower.

At the top, the two bell guards were taking turns seeing how many pushups they could do. The only clue to them being guards were their hats.

The view from the belltower

Exiting the belltower (with the drumtower in the background)

In this area, and many others we visited,… you could imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago, when the Bell and the Drum towers were used to announce events to the whole city (and people didn’t have cars or internet or phones or running water.)

Next we went to get some food. We walked down this cute shopping street. The buildings and layout were old Hutong, but they’d been fixed up some and had lots of tourist souveniers as well as kinda hipster and bohemian clothing stores.
One of the snackfood vendors on the street we were on.

Dinner at a rooftop restuarant. What’s in front of AJ is ONE menu (which included frogs, which we did NOT eat.)

View from where we were sitting. You can see the pile of bricks on the left. Everywhere we went in Beijing and surrounding areas, you’d see bricks and piles of dirt for construction.  I don’t really know why.

Here’s what one of the walkways in our hotel looked like at night.

That’s it for DAY 1! More later!


  • Cassandra

    18.05.2011 at 18:01 Reply

    Nice pictures! I think the rice in the first picture is congee. Although I’m not sure what that grey stuff is…

    I actually live in China, and I’ve been to the Hutong area! I felt like I was intruding.

    • aimeemajor

      18.05.2011 at 18:24 Reply

      Yeah, I did feel like a stupid tourist intruding at times! But it was interesting to explore a bit.

  • Jinyo

    19.05.2011 at 01:13 Reply

    Themed airplanes crews! I love it! It would be even better if you actually got to choose which airplane you took.

    I love the hotel you stayed in! So cute. When I went to China, many years ago, we only stayed in normal, Western-style hotels. This is much more fanciful!

  • Emily

    20.05.2011 at 03:22 Reply

    Ohh I live about twenty minutes from that street with those ‘triangle pastry’ things! It’s one of my favorite places to browse; I thought it was a bit off the beaten tourist path so I’m glad you got to see it! Also that hotel looks amazing.

    We live in a hutong as well, but our little house is a bit renovated – we’ve got our own toilet (a squat toilet, but clean!), which saves me from having to use the public restrooms like some of our neighbors :p

    • aimeemajor

      20.05.2011 at 08:22 Reply

      We were talking to a friend of ours who worked with someone who grew up in the older (unrenovated) parts of hutong, and he said that they just don’t drink anything remotely close to when they go to bed, which makes sense? I thought the buildings were very beautiful and I really liked the courtyard shape of things and winding streets.

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