Friday, November 1, 2013

Lama Temple and Hutongs

We started the day off at an Internet cafe because the power went out last night at our apartment. We couldn't charge our cameras or iPad, and although we just learned how to turn on the heater (no more cold nights!), it was off last night too with the power. Boo. We emailed our hosts, and they promised to fix it.

So we decided to do a few things that wouldn't require a ton of pictures. We started at Lama Temple, so named because the Dalai Lama taught there. The chair he sat in while he taught is inside. There are tons of incense sellers just outside the temple, and even more inside. It made for a rather hazy courtyard.


There were also a lot of naughty sculptures, as this is a tantric Buddhist temple.


Very weird to me. I'm excited to get to Southeast Asia and back to Theravada Buddhism, which just feels right.

Outside of the temple, we wandered through some hutongs. Hutongs are basically side streets and local alleyways. Jerome, our host in Shanghai, raved about them and they're on every Beijing to-do list. We didn't know why until today.


They're awesome! It's an escape from tourism and an authentic taste of local life.



All over tourist sites (especially here in China), you always feel like the people are trying to rip you off, like the "no bus" people going to the Great Wall. But in hutongs, it feels different. It feels like the people are genuinely happy to see you. They smile more. The food is the same price for us as it is for them: cheap. It's wonderful. There are so many hutongs around Beijing that tourists don't all go to the same ones*, so the streets are mostly open and enjoyable. (Chinese people have an interesting "fend for yourself" attitude that leads to pushing, bumping, and disregarding lines and queues and general outside etiquette. Any busy place, like subway platforms or crowded markets, is much less enjoyable because of this.)



We navigated through several hutongs until we arrived at the drum and bell towers. Nothing crazy special, but kinda cool since they're so old. They're in the center of the city and were the only means of time telling back in the old days.

Drum Tower

Bell Tower

Our final stop was Nanluogu Xiang. This is technically still a hutong, but it is the only one that has gone commercial and touristy, so it is very popular for both for tourists and locals (this is the * exception from above). Lots of shopping and street food. Our favorite stop was a cute little shop called KODO (可多 in Chinese - they don't have a website, at least not one available in China/in English that I could find), which sold a lot of little things for your home. We didn't want to buy anything now because we'd have to carry it around for three months, so we just looked and loved it all.

But the highlight of Nanluogo Xiang is Mr. Shu's Dumplings.


They're fried, not steamed. And they're delicious. You should go. We got fifteen dumplings. You can choose all sorts of different fillings. We got some with pork, some with beef, some with chives, and others with celery (not recommended).

Yum.

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