Monday, 11 May 2015

The Morning After The Night Before

The alley behind the apartment turns into a street café for workers every evening after work with tables pulled out from a series of rudimentary kitchen fronts that run for 100m or so down the alley.  An early morning stroll down this alley any morning before the street sweepers and rubbish collectors have been through is not for the squeamish – with piles of food related refuse waiting to be shovelled and scraped up and taken away.

So you can imagine perhaps what Sunday – the morning after the night before – looks like when a city of 20 million goes out on a Saturday night for a bit of a feed on the town.  Add to this the fact that Beijing had its first rain for a while (rain is rare outside of June-July-August) and you might get a bit of a feel for our Sunday walk.

We set out to visit a Hutong that comes off the large boulevard that our apartment complex and K’s work are on.  While Beijing is a grid, the boulevards are not of a consistent character and width along their length.  In parts, new, modern and quite soulless office buildings dominate for blocks and then, suddenly, over an intersection, the street has narrowed and the restaurants that line the old Hutongs (or neighbourhoods) dominate and crowd onto the footpath allowing glimpses down narrow alleyways into 12th century houses – its very romantic.

Anyway, the place is always going to look a bit worse for wear first up on a Sunday – but the yabbie restaurant stretch where large parties are held is something else – particularly after not enough rain to wash the place clean, but enough to get everything um, merging. This combined with food preparation smells for Sunday lunch is an assault on the olfactory glands.  One minute you’ll be thinking, wow, those spices and that meat frying smells great, next wondering whether you’ll ever dare to eat out in China again.

Luckily the rain persisted and got heavier - which is apparently quite rare for this time of the year - and we were treated to streets washed clean of both the detritus and accumulated grunge as well as of the less hardy tourists.  This lent a wonderful atmosphere to the old Hutong with those great tiled roofs channelling water into the narrow alleyways and gutters.  The only people left on the streets were those  who had to be there - locals going about the business of keeping the immense city alive - it was great and K and I racked up almost 15k of walking either side of nice lunch without the kids for a change.

K telling the kids the bad news that their parents were out having too much fun to come home and make them lunch.

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