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Here come my thoughts! Watch out!

Still on our first day in Beijing.  We left the Forbidden City to take a tour of the Hutongs.  Hutongs are traditional Chinese neighborhoods.  There are little shops mixed into the neighborhoods but mostly they are made up of small shack-like houses.  Mike said he grew up in a hutong but he no longer lives in one.  Hutongs are pretty dirty looking compared to any neighborhoods I’ve ever seen.  The one we went to in particular was a bit of a tourist spot, it seemed like to me.

My grandparents had done this same tour a few years previous when they came to Beijing for the first time and loved it so much that they wanted Tyler and I to experience it as well.  But this time we had a specific errand to run while we were there.  My grandparents brought us back necklaces made from pottery the last time they were there so my mother wanted us to get one for her.  We were on a mission to find the shop that sold the jewelry.

Mike took us to a bike rental shop and then off we went against the crazy Beijing traffic.  They don’t follow the rules of the road in Beijing very well.  Stop lights often don’t mean much.  While we rode into the hutong we noticed a lot of rickshaws passing by.  Apparently you can pay to have a rickshaw runner take you around the hutong, but I’m glad we rode bikes instead.


I think this was a door to a shop in the Hutong.

The streets were tiny.  The cars and small motor vehicles had to be careful while driving through.  People sat outside, eating their lunches while they took a break from work.  Every now and again a resident would pass by on their bike and I got into the habit of saying “Nihao” to them as they passed.  The shock on their faces was so priceless that I giggled to myself every time!  I could just picture what they were thinking in their heads…”White people don’t speak Chinese!!!”  Of course, they would have been right about that.  I only had a few phrases in my repertoire.

We wound our way through the hutong and eventually found the shop after Mike did some asking.  Unfortunately it was closed down for renovation.  So Mike took us to an area where there were more shops and restaurants.  We stopped to take pictures at a bridge.  It was a nice spot with lots of scenery.  I parked my bike next to a couple of girls and said, “Nihao” to them.  This time one of the girls spoke back with more than the courteous “Nihao” reply.  She spouted out all kinds of Chinese and I became flustered!  I said in rushed English, “I’m sorry!  I don’t actually speak Chinese!”  To which, with a disappointed look, she replied in near perfect English, “Are you an American?”  I immediately felt even more embarrassed.  I replied in the affirmative and wished her a pleasant day before running off to take pictures.  I suppose it serves me right.  After that, I was less giving with my “Nihaos”.

Hutong Shop

The corner where I embarrassed myself.

The Bridge

The bridge where I embarrassed myself.

We finished off our hutong tour by doing a bit of shopping down a souvenir alley.  I got some pretty cool stuff and Tyler found a Japanese couple to talk to.  He knew how excited I was to go to Japan in a couple of days so he wanted me to come and talk to them but couldn’t find me because I was shopping.

It was a little past midday and we were all starving!  Mike told us he would take us to a dumpling shop for lunch.  My grandparents were wary.  Like I said before, they aren’t ones for trying adventurous foods.  We returned our bikes, hopped in Mike’s car and made it to the restaurant pretty quickly.  Cigarette smoke permeated every inch of the restaurant.  I wrinkled my nose at the smell.  It’s not one I will ever get used to.  Mike asked us what we wanted to drink and ordered Sprite and Coke for everyone.  I told him I just wanted some water.  He seemed surprised and asked if I was sure.  I was sure.  It was hot and I was thirsty.  In a minute, I understood why he was surprised I would ask for water.  They brought me a tea pot and cup.  The pot was full of steaming hot water!  The Chinese drink their water hot.  Needless to say, that’s not what I was expecting.  I drank the Sprite instead.

The dumplings were delicious!  What dumplings are to the Chinese, are what we call Pot Stickers in America.  But real Pot Stickers are so delicious!  Even my grandparents liked them.  We had a few different fillings and I wish I could remember what was in them, but I remember one of them had a faint black licorice taste.  Those weren’t my favorite, but the others were amazingly delectable.

This restaurant was memorable for me because it was the first time I was forced to use a squatter toilet.  I never got the hang of them.


I just had to throw this in for kicks and giggles.

By the time we finished eating, we were full and ready to go.  And Mike had just the place to take us– The Summer Palace.

Click the links below to get the rest of the story:

The Asia Trip: Beijing パート4

The Asia Trip: Hong Kong パート3

The Asia Trip: Hong Kong パート2

The Asia Trip: Hong Kong パート1


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