Monday, May 6, 2013

Hutong Tour

Well, it took year, but I am finally posting the pictures from our Hutong tour in Beijing one year ago.  Apparently hutong is just a older style of neighborhood throughout China, but some are now being protected as a historical district.  We visited on of these in Beijing.  Since the streets are narrow because they were built before cars (though some cars do go in them) they transported us in a bike-rickshaw.
The three of us rode in on rickshaw.  Our driver took a picture of us crammed in it.
It wasn't too tight and quite exciting.  Usually I'm a bit scared about being killed in cars, etc, but you kind of just had to go with the flow or there would be no fun.
Our guide explained that many doors were red with brass handles for good luck.  The home we visited was one courtyard owned by only one couple with one brother living there to help with the tourist visits.  Typically they said as many as 3-5 generations would share the area.  There were 4 little buildings facing each other and all the rooms in each building had one door that opened into the courtyard.
The largest building would be occupied by the head of the family.  The one in this residence had a nice covered porch where this man was sitting.  This was the room the couple who owned the place slept.  I believe traditionally this building would always be built facing a specific direction, but I cannot remember what exactly our guide said.  It was definitely a little fancier and very clear it was the "important" home.

Then next to it they had a building that had two rooms.
A guest bedroom.  Tourists could rent these rooms out to stay in while vacationing in Beijing.

And the other room was the kitchen.
I believe this woman was one of the owners but they did not speak much English and I didn't think to ask our guide, Spud.  He had a spiel to share and I didn't think about questions until later.
Our guide did say that because the area is so old it falls under different ownership laws and the people can actually pass it on to their family as opposed to just renting it from the government for 99 years.  It is also in the heart of Beijing, but feels like the country, so very valuable and desirable location on paper.  But some families like this one are having their children chose to live in the more modern areas of the city desiring more modern conveniences.  For instance, there was a water pump in the middle of the courtyard, but actually bathing area is down the street and shared with other little group of buildings.  

And just to be clear, the courtyard is an outdoor courtyard.  They had some coverings that worked great for shade, but I don't know how they would do for winter warmth.
This was hanging from the courtyard covering...
 As was this.

Then the next building was the one the brother lived in and we weren't allowed to see in.  Then the next building, maybe it had two rooms, but the one I remember is the honeymoon suite.
In case a honeymoon suite that is a bed of plywood and no air conditioning appeals...
I did sit on the bed just to see (those are my feet), and yes, it was very, very hard.  Worse than any of our hotel beds.
I think this is the other room in the honeymoon suite building and it is the dining room.  In the far past each of these rooms would have been filled with your children and children's children all living as a community.  It was a privilege to get a tiny glimpse into this beautiful way of living even if now for this family it is just a tourist attraction.

Then we rode in the rickshaws some more and took a walk along the river where I guide talked, but I couldn't hear him.
Then we rode back to our starting point in order to catch the bus back to the hotel.

May 6th was our last day in Beijing, a very busy day, and the last day without our precious Sweet Pea in our arms. 

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