Back in March in Beijing, I decided to stay in a Hutong house, not a conventional western-style hotel. It was relatively easy to do, just settle on one (4 Banqiao), find the best deal online, then call them up to negotiate directly. It was about an hour away from the office and 3 metro trains, but I liked the commute seeing how Beijingers got to work and not just by taxi or a short walk from the most local hotel. It also meant my rooms was near “food street” (Dongzhimen nei da jie) where I ate a few times at bustling restaurants, eating hot stuff and, once, Beijing duck.
The folks in the office were great, a really nice bunch. I like they eat all together (not just split in smaller groups) and we went out to a great restaurant they like.
A trip to the Forbidden Palace and the Great Wall with Lin Gang got me fascinated with the wall structures used in China. In particular their use in the Hutong and encircling city walls with gates that were locked at night.
And how recently they proliferated - the picture above of Beijing's wall is from just 100 years ago (from Ernst Boerschmann's classic book of visit to 12 provinces between 2006-2009 - note the roof damage showing significant disrepair). In England the towns and cities with walls had crumbled into ineffectiveness by the end of the Middle Ages - so for me the realisation that Chinese walls were around much later and in full use as originally intended (and there are still a few left) was astonishing. Perhaps it is something to do with school history lessons about castles which provided protection to people living outside its walls in times of danger. Or why I like taking pictures of doors (in walls). Or because my postgrad studies were connected to boundary layers. Whatever the reason I find these Chinese walls, their design and use, somewhat fascinating ;) This old map of Beijing shows the inner and outer walls.