One evening in Beijing, my tour group had supper at a family home located in a hutong. A hutong is an old residential neighborhood. Many were bulldozed in the name of progress and replaced with skyscrapers, but apparently, the Chinese government put a stop to it in order to preserve those that remain. This was an opportunity to see a private home, and get away from the bland meals served by the restaurants that catered to tour groups, even if it was only for one evening.
To get there, we took an old mode of transportation: a rickshaw. There was at least a dozen of them lined up along a wide street waiting for passengers and we would need all of them for our group. The drivers happily helped us climb in and when everyone was seated and photos taken, the rickshaws rolled out one after the other, like a wagon train rumbling across a frontier.
The air was filled with the sound of the drivers shouting out to each other and the groaning of old brakes as they pedaled quickly down narrow streets. We flew past night clubs and restaurants that bordered a lake and down alleys that snaked through the hutong. We eventually came to a stop at what looked like a main street, where we disembarked and paid our driver 20 yuan (which was almost $4.00 Canadian) for the trip.
The alleys we walked through would have been too narrow even for a rickshaw. They were lined with bicycles, scooters and the occasional car. Along the way, we peeked into doorways leading to courtyards where multiple family homes were located.
The photo below shows the entrance to the home where we were to dine.
I couldn’t believe the couple prepared an eight course meal for 25 people in this tiny kitchen.
Three large round tables covered with white tablecloths were squeezed into the dining/living room. Family pictures and the couple’s wedding pictures sat on a shelf in the corner beside my table. The meal was one of the best we had in the entire trip.
Afterwards, we had to walk back to a main street where our bus was waiting. Many locals were out enjoying the evening. In the photo below right, a street vendor is selling food
The evening was one of my most memorable moments in Beijing. I made a short video of the rickshaw ride, so you can come along and enjoy the ride with me.