With all the modernisation of Beijing, it’s easy to become lost in the maze of malls, impossibly wide boulevards and glass and steel megastructures. Parades of shoppers and domestic tourists flock to gawk at the dazzling marvel that has become modern Beijing.
But while the old allure of this ancient city is increasingly overshadowed by progress, there are pockets of life that turn the clock back to the days of rickety bicycles, quiet hutongs with centuries of history to tell, and old men huddled intently and laughing over a game of mahjong, all the while turning endless strands of prayer beads.
This is the real China, the real Beijing, and one of the endearing features of the city. And with Urban Adventures these are the kinds of experiences we strive to show. The picture was taken on a brisk spring morning by the Beijing Clock Tower, one of the original entry points into the city and the starting point of our biking trip through the city’s old quarter. Within just a few metres you find yourself in a maze of quiet streets punctuated by single-story homes dating back hundreds of years, all with their own stories to tell. By looking closely each house will tell you a story about its previous occupants.
The old man in the picture is part of a larger group of men intently watching a game of street mahjong. Random chatter and laughter erupt from the group as the life of the street and the game itself plays out. By stopping to watch you will find that many of Beijing’s older generations move at a very different pace from the rest of the country.