Exploring Beijing with our Tour Guide

20:25 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

We made the decision to use a tour company to get us around Beijing. We knew we had 2 days before I had to go to work to fit in the key sites. And with one of those being the day we landed, it was going to be a tough feat.

So, we decided to hire someone to pick us up from the airport and drive us around for 2 days.

First stop was the Forbidden City. So far so good.

Later on in the tour, not so good. As it turns out, the tour companies (or at least this one) are government owned. So that meant we stopped by the government owned restaurant, government owned jade warehouse, and government owned medical facility for foot massages and attempts to sell us herbal medicine. If I had it to do all over again, I would skip the guide and do it on our own. The city was surprisingly easy to get around in via the metro, and we had no trouble when we were on our own.

This time, though, we were stuck with the guides.

After the Forbidden City, they took us to the hutongs. I had heard of them from a co-worker who recommended restaurants nearby, so thought it must have been good.

And to be fair, they weren't terrible. They beat the jade shop and herbal medicine place for sure.

But the whole situation of it was funny.

To get around the hutongs, you ride in a rickshaw. So, Paul and I clamored into the seat behind our bike driver and got ready to see the sites.

Then, pops up alongside us, on a bicycle, our hutong tour guide. Yelling out over the ruckus of the neighborhood itself, she furiously pedals to keep up with us, all while avoiding the other rickshaws and  bikes that clutter the roads of the neighborhood.

After perusing the streets, we end up in what is described to us as a typical hutong courtyard, where the family used to gather back in ancient times. This wasn't so interesting, as they have tourist-ized parts of it, and done nothing to the others. One room is decorated to look like what was a traditional bedroom for the wedding night. The next is a real bedroom, AC unit and all. Yet, the guide takes us into each and explains it (there is the bed and chairs). After an awkward 30 minutes, we thought we were done, but no. Back out in the courtyard, we get descriptions of the pot holding water & fish, flowers, and are taken back to the wedding room for photos.

My smile says "Are we done yet?!"

We end our tour of the hutongs by driving by the lake. Now I can see why someone would recommend it! The lake is filled with paddle boats, full of families and couples enjoying a sunny afternoon. The streets are lined with trees, restaurants and people, giving life to the whole neighborhood.

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