Beijing was not a city that I liked immediately. It’s crowded. It’s polluted. It’s hot and humid. It seems everything is under construction in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics. To be fair, almost anything would have been a let down after the countryside of Mongolia, though. It took a day on a bike and a few more days wandering around the hutongs (alleys) to endear me to this city, but now I’m a Beijing fan.
My favorite thing about Beijing is that every street has an entirely separate lane for bikes. Every single one!! I’ve never been anywhere else in the world where you can cruise down an 8 lane street in the capitol city on a bike… surrounded by other bikes.
My next favorite thing is the culture of the hutongs (alleys). The hutongs are narrow little lanes that are lined with old homes. The culture of the hutongs is what intrigues me. Men playing chess in the lane, women shouting across the way for cooking ingredients, one neighbor giving another a haircut out on the stoop. I love the sense of community. I was talking to an American man who’s been living in Beijing for the last year and he told me the hutongs are in danger of extinction. They are being knocked down for high rise apartment buildings and wider streets. Some say it is destroying one of the best aspects of Beijing, and others simply see it as progress. I, for one, hope that if I return to Beijing in 20 years I can still spend an afternoon cruising the hutong and sharing a smile with the little old man out on the stoop trying to catch a breeze on a hot Summer day.
Tags: Amanda Formoso, Beijing, China, Hutong, Travel