September 9th, 2007 – by: frogchan79
We took a guided tour from the hotel. It took us through the city to some of the major tourist destinations, but what we really wanted to see was the Hutong, a traditional Chinese city area, which was included on the tour. We went first to the Red Gate, one of the remaining city gates of the Beijing City Wall. It was interesting, just a short stop. Inside they were housing an art gallery. From there we went to the 798 area, it's an old factory area that's become the leading art area. They've taken all the old buildings in the area and turned them into mini gallerys, exhibition halls and cafes. It's a fun area, where ever you turn there's art. The graffiti in the area was pretty fun as well. It was interesting to see.
Lantern inside the Drum tower
From there we went to the Hutong where we got out and hopped in the back of a Rickshaw. The rickshaw took us through the streets and to a point where we had to walk through the streets around the side of the lake and to a normal street, turns out it's the road that runs from the back center of the Forbidden Palace, the Forbidden Palace is the center of the city. It's a big rectangle and the road we were on goes to the Drum Tower and then the Bell Tower. The drum tower had super steep steps which you climbed up, pulling yourself along with a hand rail to the top. It's worth it though, you can see the temples at the back of the Forbidden City, and the Hutong roof tops and the bell tower to the back, it's a great view of the city and you can see how the main old streets run up and down from the center.
Hutong from the drum tower
You can also see the drums, there is one remaining original drum that's in pretty bad shape but it's fun to see. Then we went back to the Hutong where we were invited into a family home to have a look around. It's a set of rectangular buildings that join together to make a square with a square court yard in the center, it was so lovely. I want one too! The whole family lives there, the mother, father, son and his wife, their son the one set of in-laws and their daughter. Apparently it's traditional that the son stays at home with the family but the daughter goes to live with the in-laws. The whole family lives together taking care of the elder generation. They'd owned the house for over a hundred years moving it from one generation to the next. The woman and her husband had at one time both worked, she in insurance and he was an engineer but they retired and she did traditional paper cutting and her brother paints, so we got a paper cutting whilst we were there which I love. Then we left and walked back to the rickshaw which took us back through the streets to the car. It was a great day out. The hutong is now a protected area. It used to house generals and upper class people and was passed through the family, now days anyone can buy one if they can afford it. It's a very friendly neighborhood feeling when you go through.