By: Ian Stalker
Okushu Tours enables those visiting Beijing on its China tour to escape some of the Chinese capital’s hustle and bustle during their several days in the city.
An energetic city home to millions of people is also home to the Hutong district, which Okushu Tours guide Joseph says offers a relaxing retreat for tourists who tend to frequent such traditional and hugely popular tourist draws as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China.
“It’s very quiet and peaceful in Hutong,” he said during a recent Okushu Tours webinar. “It’s hard to imagine we’re right in the center of Beijing.”
The webinar showed near-spotless Hutong streets that had little vehicular traffic and only smallish numbers of pedestrians and cyclists.
Okushu clients can explore the district by rickshaw if they choose, but motorcoaches can’t navigate its narrow streets.
Rickshaws – used as a transportation method for centuries in China – have actually been banned from many Beijing streets.
Hutong is close to the Forbidden City – which it actually predates – and drew upper middle class families.
The area is home to a large lake named Back Lake, with Joseph saying it’s “hard for people to imagine that Beijing has a big lake.”
Hutong actually means Water Well in Mongolian.
Joseph noted Hutong has bell and drum towers that long alerted residents to the time, with a bell tower bell being rung every two hours from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. A drum tower drum would be banged regularly after 7 p.m., providing further updates as to the time.
Joseph added the drum wouldn’t be beaten loudly enough to awaken those who were sleeping, adding the sound it would create was more “symbolic.”
Okushu clients can actually visit a Hutong home, giving them an understanding of contemporary lifestyles.
Hutong is also home to many bars and pubs.
Many locals visible during the webinar weren’t wearing masks, a far cry from last year’s tough measures in China to contain coronavirus. The more relaxed ambiance seen in the webinar suggested China’s gained the upper hand in the fight against the virus.
Okusku’s China tour takes people to other cities, including Xi’an and Shanghai.
Okushu Tours’ Lisa Lau labelled her company a niche tour operator that provides authentic experiences. “We’re not trying to sell you the whole world.”
More information can be found at okushu.com.