A hutong is one of the numerous alleyways of the Beijing courtyard neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are somewhat famous now that they are being gradually consumed by high rise apartments and new businesses. I had chosen our hotel particularly for this location, and I was not disappointed. Despite being in a city of 15 million, during the course of our stay we had the feeling of living in a small village. By wandering the hutong, which we did frequently during the week, often getting a bit lost in the maze of narrow passages, we were able to observe a part of the daily life of Beijing residents.
The hutongs are generally poor neighborhoods, and much of life is lived on the street during the good weather. People tended to their fruit stands and small restaurants, watched their children, prepared their meals, and visited with their neighbors all on the street. They seemed quite used to foreigners strolling up and down their lanes and taking photos of ordinary things such as an old woman peeling garlic, a father helping his small son put on shoes, and a man reading a newspaper in the morning light.