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Hutong in Bejing

Alleyways (Hutong) and courtyard homes(si heyuan) have been the signature features of Beijing's urban landscape since the Ming dynasty. These homes traditionally comprised buildings built around an enclosed courtyard, but many have been subdivided in modern times. The narrowness of the alleyways and of many courtyard homes discourages heavy traffic and encourages residents to live their lives on the street, fostering a strong sense of community. The pace of life in these neighborhoods is less hurried than on Beijing's broad modern avenues; the noises less grating. The Hutongs are like villages within the megalopolis. As you wander through them, you may feel as though you have stepped back in time.

hutong.jpgMany Hutongs have disappeared in the past decade to make way for modern department buildings and wider roads. Fortunately, some historic neighborhoods are being preserved, as you'll discover if you take the walks described below. Besides winding you along some of Beijing's most beautiful Hutongs, these walks will take you to some of the capital's best sights. We suggest going on foot since this will allow you to soak in the atmosphere, move at your own pace and observe the small details that make Hutongs unique.

Renting a bicycle is also a good option, this way you can cover more ground and keep your feet relatively happy. Bikes for rent can be found at several prominent places in the Qianhai/ Huohai areas, you'll have to leave a deposit, but the hourly fees are very reasonable. Tandem bicycles are also available. If you're not into biking, you can hire a pedi-cab.

The charming Hutongs around Huohai and Qianhai Lakes meander through quiet neighborhoods and parks along the lakeshore. The Hutongs, despite being a tourist attraction, are living communicaties enclosed within a Warren-like maze of narrow lanes. You can see residents chatting over a pot of tea on whicker chairs while their songbirds chitter their musical tunes. Strolling through the Huohai and Qianhai areas will take you by grand homes, hip cafes and the centuries old Bell and Drum Towers. A through exploration Pfizer the area will take about 3 hours, though 2 hours will be more than enough time to get a good look and feel for life in a Hutong. While you are there, it's hard to get lost, just walk in any direction and you'll come across a major landmark. There are a lot of cafes along the way, drop into any one of them for a drink or a bite to eat. The area across from the north gate of Beihai Park, and where Qianhai Lake meets Huohai Lake has lots of eating and drinking options, any of them make perfect rest stops.

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