Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Staying at a Beijing Youth Hostel in a Hutong

I wrote last week about exploring the hutongs of Beijing. Actually, we stayed at a youth hostel in the middle of a hutong, and we LOVED it.

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See, I like to travel cheap and authentically. I do like to be comfortable, but I hate it when Western hotels are an enclave shielding travelers from the local culture. I want to experience local culture, not be treated like I'm back in the US! AND for the few days that Isaac and I were together and thus paying for our own trip, we had to be super cheap. So as always, I went looking on tripadvisor.com/ to find a hotel that was affordable, accessible, and fun. The Red Lantern House fit the bill.

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You could stay in a hostel style room or pick a private room with an en suite bathroom, which Isaac and I chose. It was simple and plain, but totally sufficient. Later I met up with the team I was traveling with from my work, and the ritzy Western hotel we stayed at looked a lot nicer but it was away from anywhere and in the end didn't provide any extra perks that the Red Lantern House didn't provide.

I thought it was just so fun. From the hostel you could walk down the road ten minutes and get to the bus or subway, or a McDonalds or KFC or Isaac's favorite grilled meat spot:

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Or you could go the other direction to the covered market at the heart of the hutong.

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I love markets. I love the people shopping, the sellers playing whatever the popular local game is (mahjong here), the fresh fruit, the funky meat smells, the pastries, etc. So fun. I went three times. Outside the market were bakeries, fresh pasta shops, and little spots that were making fresh sesame butter. I tried and tried to figure out what sesame butter goes in, and someone finally informed me that sesame butter = tahini.

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And, in another direction there were beautiful lakes with nightlife.

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The hostel itself had such a beautiful courtyard with flowers one direction and bikes and lanterns another direction:

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In the morning we'd go to their main courtyard for breakfast, which was either a bacon and egg sandwhich, bacon and eggs with toast, or eggs scrambled with bacon and served with toast. ;)

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I love the international atmosphere of youth hostels too. We went on a Great Wall trip with a woman from Denmark with awesome dreads who was living in London and her British boyfriend. They'd come to Beijing by way of the railroad that goes across Russia and Mongolia. Another martial arts teacher from Canada had hooked up with another British guy. We got up in the middle of the night to watch World Cup games with people from Spain, Venezuela, Switzerland, England, etc. And that was all while the caretaker walked around in her pajamas serving beer, and her husband slept on the couch with a mug of green tea in his hand.

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It was SO much fun.

2 comments:

Rae said...

So I will once again out myself as being horribly unexperienced and admit that I have wanted to stay in hostels for quite a while, but not yet had the chance. I really liked reading about your experience. You just need to post more pictures of *you*. :-D

Kacie said...

Hah, I'd love to post more photos of myself, but when you're the girl with a camera and no one else takes pictures..... you end up in very few of them!