First day in Beijing. A lot of it feels strangely familiar, having spent half of my childhood in another sprawling metropolis of a similar size. Chaotic traffic, thick haze, people in the streets. So far, though, Beijing feels calmer somehow and less frantic. I’m staying in a hotel that is a converted courtyard house in a hutong (old-style alley) neighborhood of Dongcheng — apparently the grid of these alleyways was initiated after the Mongols leveled the city. They have been bulldozed in recent years in lots of other parts of the city to make space for new developments, but particularly in this neighborhood they prevail. The hutong feel like real neighborhoods, densely packed with residential dwellings and businesses and people seem to spend a lot of time conversing outside, sitting  on make-shift stools. There is food everywhere. Sometimes small grills are installed on the sides of buildings. Many people eat on the street, bent over low tables, drinking beer. Mostly, I’m blown away by the complete lack of noise — the hutong are narrow and although I would guess that occasionally driving a car through here is unavoidable (my taxi dropped me off in front of the hotel, but it would’ve been faster to walk from the main road), it seems that 90% of the traffic is either bicycles or some sort of electric bikes. In other words, all this adds up to basically zero noise apart from the occasional bell or horn, which is impressive given the density of the population. The low traffic also makes these alleys a nice place for a stroll…

taxi at the Bell Tower

peering through the fence at the Bell Tower

the variety of bikes is quite impressive — these have some sort of attachement from the top of the headset to the axle whose function I don’t understand… 

delicious cold yogurt drinks

finally got a picture of these two boys, when the ladies walking by decided to pose as well

entrance to the Nanluogu Xiang street — note the squadron of 15-year-old policemen on the right

one of my favorite kinds of bikes so far, they’re like a mini car

lots of vegetable sellers just off Nanluogu Xiang