Where We Be
|Rickshaw drivers line up awaiting their next passengers
|We saw almost no cars but lots of bikes and rickshaws during our ride through town
We drive to one of the few remaining old
neighborhoods in Beijing that has survived
intact, untouched by the high-rise apartments,
skyscrapers, shopping malls, and wide city
streets that have overtaken most of Beijing.
This maze of crooked streets and low-rise
homes is called a hutong. Beijing used to
consist of hundreds or even thousands of
hutongs, but now there are only a few left.
We climb into rickshaws for a little ride around
the hutong. Okay, maybe it’s touristy -- like
taking a gondola ride in Venice -- but it’s
undeniably fun. Our rickshaw driver is a shy
young man who seats us in the rickshaw and
places a colorful blanket on our laps. Then
we're off -- part of a rickshaw convoy that winds
its way through the narrow streets.
We pass a jumble of small homes and many
young Chinese making their way through the
streets by bicycle or on foot. In a small park at
the edge of a large lake, we see people doing
tai chi, playing a game similar to hacky-sack,
stretching, exercising, and ballroom dancing.
We turn the corner, wind along narrow streets,
and come to what feels like the center of the
hutong. It’s a busy intersection with only a few
cars and lots of rickshaws and bicycles. We
cross over a curved bridge. Strong young men
are positioned there to help our rickshaw
driver pull the rickshaw up and over the
bridge. We get a brief glimpse of steaming
outdoor woks, Chinese pubs, colorful shops,
and lively gatherings, and then we’re past the
intersection and back to quieter streets.
|Our hutong tour includes a visit to the local kindergarten. Cute youngsters sing us a nursery rhyme and shyly invite us to dance. One
member of our group is an instant hit when he swings one kid above his head and dances a jig as the others crowd around laughing.
|A rickshaw ride through the winding streets of a hutong was a welcome surprise on our tour
|Bikes are the easiest way to navigate these narrow streets
|We briefly visit a hutong home. It’s very tiny, and fitting 33 people into
the living room is definitely pushing it. Three generations of the family
have lived here, and their extended family live off the same courtyard.
|Quick snapshot of the smiling rickshaw driver behind us