To this point the weather in Beijing had been stereotypically awful. But our last full day in Beijing was clear and sunny.
We started our day by visiting Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City. Both are forever swarmed with tourists foreign and Chinese alike, but the lines tend to move relatively quickly, and it took us no more than fifteen minutes to purchase tickets and make our way into the inner portions of the palaces.
Once inside, we spent a good two or three hours exploring the various buildings and corridors that make up the palace grounds.
After exploring the city, we walked along the Houhai lakes until we reached Gulou - one of Beijing’s historical Hutong neighborhoods. Hutongs (胡同) are traditionally made up of narrow alleys and dense collections of Siheyuan (四合院) courtyard-style residences. In contemporary Beijing, they’ve taken on a bit of a hipster vibe, and many of the once-residences have been replaced with chic boutiques and restaurants.
For lunch we stopped at a dumpling restaurant called Mr. Shi’s and stopped for a beer at a local brewery called Great Leap Brewing. They offered a great selection of beers and their courtyard offered a respite from the bustle of China; it felt more like Brooklyn than Beijing.
That evening, we stopped back at our hotel before heading out to meet up with some of the people we’d met on The Great Wall the previous day for drinks. We met in a neighborhood call Sanlitun (三里屯). The neighborhood is in middle of Beijing’s embassy district and is home to a number of western-style bars and restaurants. It was a late night of drinking and street BBQ.
Our hotel had a very comfortable rooftop bar, and Geoff and I spent the evening playing cards and watching smoggy skyline.