Before you walk to heaven, you need to walk among the sinners. Kidding! The locals are quite nice. Despite staying within the hutongs I never really explored during the day so here’s my morning.
Let’s start with the hostel, City Walls. The entrance is nondescript but the entryway and courtyard hold all the personality. I’m not sure if they bought the lot and converted it or if it was just one home.
I dig up a walking guide I have through a hutong section. Get ready for a lot of entryways. It starts with what I refer to as trendy street (for all of teens hanging around) because I can’t remember names. Luogu Lane is the start of this historical section and was built in 1267.
I thought the doorways I’ve been passing are front doors to people’s homes. Perhaps some are for more upper class residents but the rest are entrances for pathways that lead to the front door of many homes. It’s quite a web.
I’m on Banchang, Dongmianhua and Beibingmasi.
I find a little stand making pancakes called jianbing. There’s two men waiting and I get in line. I don’t really understand the prices but throw in a five without complaint. She pours the batter and makes a crepe. An egg is cracked on top and is smoothed out into a second layer. Scallions, parsley black sesame seeds and other things are added. She flips it and brushes on some sauce and hot pepper. In the middle is placed a sheet of fried crunchy dough. The crepe is folded around it. She hands it to me and it’s so hot I can barely hold on while I take this photo.
I’ve been taking random photos over the pass few days of hutongs and here they are. Some are homes, hotels, restaurants or doorways.
That’s all for hutongs. Well, one more. Continuing on I turn down what looks to be a very tourist centric street near the lake. I was ready to turn back but found an interesting spot. It’s a temple but today it hosts an art exhibit for Li Bensheng,an artist who painted scenes of 1920s – 1940s Beijing. They’re fantastic, fun little paintings. I wish I could read the descriptions! I bought a set of postcards.
And we’re back at the lake. I stop at the hostel to rest before visiting the Temple of Heaven.
The highlight here is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which was beautifully renovated in 2005. Thank you Olympics! It’s made entirely of wood without a single nail. The Hall was rebuilt in 1889 after being struck by lightning. The story goes that a caterpillar was about to crawl onto the golden ball at the top when by a divine power struck it with lightning. Thirty two court officials were executed for allowing it to happen. Hardcore.
Maybe I’m just physically and mentally tired but I was underwhelmed. All templed out. Once away from this section the park is quiet and mostly filled with locals. There’s two men shaking tree branches with bamboo sticks to get the walnuts. Some are jogging and there’s cats roaming the tall grass.
I make a quick stop at the Pearl Market across the street. It wasn’t as interesting as I thought.
Quick ride on the subway leads in to a very different looking part of Beijing. Suddenly I’m walking down the Fifth Avenue of Beijing– Waldorf Astoria, Cartier, Apple and other fancy places– next to the night market of Wangfujing Street.
I’m looking forward to grabbing some street food. There’s typical things like dumplings and the exotic which is what the market is known for. Tourists cringe at the thought of eating animal testicles, bugs, snakes and starfish. This is the most non Asian tourists I’ve seen so far.
I walk up and down to make my selection. I decide to go with noodles, grilled meat and dumplings only I don’t make it that far. The price of noodles surprised me since there’s no meat. I didn’t want to spend 100rmb on ready made food when I can get great fresh food at a restaurant. I eat my veggie noodles and head back. I guess it’s just for looks as there weren’t a lot of people eating. I mean in NYC there would be lines and the food made fresh for you.
It’s cold and I want bubble tea. Stop by Luogu Lane across from the subway to find the hot tea is out of season or something. Ugh. No luck today. I’ll find out later that there’s a great homemade noodle place near the Temple of Heaven.