Saturday, September 15, 2012

Old City Beijing

Our time in Mongolia has officially come to an end. Before heading back to the states, we decided to take a vacation and visit Beijing for the week. Scott has been there a few times but I have not so I was really looking forward to the trip. When we discussed where we should stay I said I really wanted to stay in a non-American style hotel and stay close to most of the sites. After some research, I learned more about the old city area with hutong alleys and knew this is where I wanted us to stay.

I picked the Beijing Traditional View Hotel which was centrally located near the Shichahai, Drum and Bell Tower, Lama Temple, Forbidden City and much more. Not only was this hotel in a great location but it was $75.00 a night! We arrived mid-afternoon on a Saturday and checked into our hotel. The room was spacious and overall it met our needs for the next seven days.

Entrance to the Traditional View Hotel which is off Juer Hutong.
Hallway to our room
I selected a room that had Chinese decor versus modern to switch it up a little from our normal routine.
SHICHAHAI AREA
Very close to our hotel is the historic Shichahai area that consists of three lakes: Qianhai, Xihai and Houhai. Qianhai is north of Beihai Park and a very popular traditional hutong area (ancient alleys). Lotus Lane, located on the west side of the lake, is a pedestrian area filled with restaurants, cafes and bars. North of Qianhai is Houhai, the heart of the hutong area with even more shops, restaurants and bars. You can hire a rickshaw to take a tour of this area which we ended up not doing only because of lack of time. Although this area is filled with tourists and you are constantly dodging rickshaws, we really enjoyed hanging out here.
No tourist area would be complete without vendors selling a variety of food and drinks and I am not sure that the Chinese actually drink or eat any of this stuff.
Tanghulu, fruit on bamboo skewers dipped in a hard sugar shell, is a popular Chinese snack.
The Silver Ingot Bridge is a narrow channel that joins Qianhai Lake with Houhai Lake. You can see below people walking on the bridge to cross to the other side. We were not overly impressed with the restaurant selections in this area but it is definitely a great place to relax and people watch on a roof top while enjoying an ice cold beverage.
Another fun tourist activity is to rent a boat and ride around the lakes. 
Houhai and Qianhai Lakes at night.
Having just come from Mongolia, I chuckled that there was a Mongolian Ger on the roof of this bar.
Classic signs!
NAN LUOGUXIANG
Nan Luoguxiang hutong alley is the best preserved hutong alley in Beijing and we were fortunate that our hotel was right around the corner. It is very, very touristy but we still absolutely loved hanging out here.
We loved all the quaint cafes and bars on this street. The Backward Bar has special meaning to us but more on that later...
 Reef Bar
Salud Bar
Tibet Cafe
Vulcan Bar
For me, one of the joys of traveling is meeting people from around the world. We stopped for a late night snack at a burger joint mid-week and met a wonderful couple, Rosie and Simon, from England. They recently quit their jobs and are traveling around the world for a year. Hopefully we will get to see them next spring in the United States.
Some of the locals asked if they could have their picture taken with us. It surprises me that they are so fascinated by westerners since it is such a huge tourist city.
 Lastly, Nan Luoguxiang is also filled with food vendors selling a variety of foods like grilled meats, noodles, drinks, frozen yogurt and food I did not recognize. A very popular snack or meal is grilled meat on a stick. For the low price of $1.50 you can get either chicken or lamb. A snack that hits the spot late night after several beers.

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