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-Rickshaw tour at Houhai

Houtong Rickshaw Houhai Tour

Program Title: SCIC Social Activities (Hutong Rickshaw Tour -Beijing)
Activity Date: 4th July 2009
Participants: SCIC Language, TCM and Taiji Students

Last weekend we went on a rickshaw tour of Houhai park and the hutong area as part of our social experiences. 

Houhai park is in the centre of Beijing, within the first ring road (along with Beihai Park, Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City). It's a very large lake surrounded by the hutongs, which are traditional Chinese houses, not very tall, normally built around a little courtyard. 

Beijing is such a vast city, and there's so much modern construction happening, that sometimes it's hard to find a distinctively Chinese place separate from all the changes going on in the capital. The hutongs still have a sense of age and tradition that makes spending time there worthwhile. The park itself is also very big, and on a clear day the sunlight glitters on the water in a very beautiful way. 




 Beautiful Houhai Lake

 James with his Language Partner

 Locals chill out at Houhai

Houhai park is also a great centre for nightlife, as the lake has many restaurants and bars around it. At night the area is always busy, and it can be a great place to relax and unwind a little. 

I, together with with other SCIC Language Students, took a rickshaw around the hutong area, which lasted around an hour. At first it seems odd to have someone pedal you around for a while, but it is how they earn their living. My rickshaw driver was very friendly, and listening to him made me wish I could speak better Chinese. My language partner - Eve did translate for me, however, so I didn't miss out on anything. 

As we went around the lake I could see many families enjoying themselves in the hot weather. We weaved in and out of people and other traffic on the roads, and our driver was very dextrous in directing the rickshaw without bumping into anything. It's a very pleasent way to pass the time, going in and out of the warm sun and the shade of the trees that grow around the lake.




 A local hadncraft expert

 A tradtional tea house

 A cute Chinese kid

At one point we stopped and went into look an an old Empress's house in the hutongs. The house was fairly large, and was filled with many old antiques such as vases and sculptures carved from jade. There were also several rooms that were decorated in different fashions according to who lived there - a famous Peking Opera peformer had once stayed there, for example, and his room still contained ornamental stage-props and a large wardrobe/armoire (I'm not certain what the correct term is here!) that contained his costumes. 

There was also a small pavilion outside, open to the air, where people would sit and draw calligraphy. It was very shady and cool, and very pleasent.

I would suggest to anyone seeking some open space and relaxation away from Beijing's busier areas, that Houhai park is a great place to visit, whether you want to walk around the lake and enjoy the open air, or relax with a drink in one of the many bars in the evening. The hutongs also offer a glimpse of Beijing's traditional past, as well as an experience of China's vast culture and history.


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