Sunday, April 19, 2009
Are you one to enjoy hutongs and some of the traditional areas of Beijing? Take an amble through Nanluoguxiang Hutong in the area just east of Hou Hai Lake and the Drum Tower to be entertained by the street scene and fascinated by the many interesting shops selling more traditional products from Beijing. This a great place to buy souvenirs with a difference!
Nanluoguxiang is home to some of Beijing's most popular yoghurt. Locals and Chinese tourists will queue for hours waiting to buy their tubs of this reportedly delicious yoghurt. The yoghurt certainly looks good and is served with delicious toffee covered treats to mix into the yoghurt or to nibble on the side.
If you are interested in trying it either join the huge queue that cannot be missed meandering along Nanluoguxiang Lu toward the main cross road intersection and around the corner, or chat to some of the friendly locals who come out of the shop with bags of the yoghurt and they may offer you a taste. They will love it that you are interested! You may also be surprised to find that most of the people buying it are young and speak English, so it is not so daunting to have a chat.
Other shopping options include buying some beautifully made traditional Chinese clothing in any number of smalls shops set up in traditional hutong buildings. The fabrics and designs are delightful for those who are looking for something different to take home for that cocktail party or dinner out.
Cotton fabrics are most common, but silk and silk mixed with cotton can also be found in shops like Feel Shanghai which offers tailor made clothes in addition to those off the rack. Some of them are so light to wear you may even wonder if you are actually wearing anything! Traditional cloth shoes in a range of colours and designs can be found. Shops like Color Together sell traditional designs on t-shirts, aprons, shoes posters and other artwork from Sichuan province.
Color Together even have a few woodblock prints available from artists who have already passed into the next world; such colourful and detailed designs reflecting Chinese art are few and far between so if you appreciate such work do not hesitate to buy. Other shops sell products like t-shirts, mugs, porcelain sculptures, porcelain stools and a wide range of other beautiful porcelain products and nicknacks.
Visit NLGX Design Store at 33 Nanluoguxiang Lu to find a variety of clothing and footwear from an independent Chinese design company, www.nlgx.com. A word of advice when shopping in Beijing, if you like it buy it today, it won’t be there tomorrow.
Of course if you enjoy coffee shops, bars or restaurants catering to western needs there are quite a number of those to be found too. Chinese restaurants, bars and cafes with menus in Chinese characters and English, staff who speak some English all help to make eating, sitting back and soaking up the ambience that much easier as you gaze at the passing parade of strollers, cyclists, pedal carts, and small cars.
For those wanting to eat other cuisines try the Korean, Indian or even Fish Nation restaurants. Don’t forget to enjoy some of China’s most famous teas on offer on a number of menus too. A trip to China is not complete without tasting the delicious tea. There is a huge range of flavours to enjoy, some more delicate and others with strong and memorable flavours. You may become so interested you will want to visit one of Beijing's tea markets like Maliandao Tea Street.
Café Zarah is a delightful café offering some of the most delicious affogato found anywhere. Affogatto is coffee with a scoop of ice-cream, simply divine! Located just out of Nanluoguxiang it is a little to the east of Nanluoguxiang Lu at 42 Gulou Dongdajie. You can’t miss it with its deep red coloured façade. This popular and stylish café offers an extensive menu of western style food along with wireless internet access.
The café can even be booked for special occasions or meetings. One of the highlights of any visit to Café Zarah is the opportunity to enjoy the regular exhibitions, the most recent being a photographic exhibition by Gemma Thorpe who had a delightfully unique take on life in Inner Mongolia in a range of colour and black and white photos titled Grasslands and Nomads.
Gemma has studied photography in the UK and in China. Her work offers much insight into the lives of people in real China. Coming soon will be an exhibition by Seppe Van Grieken featuring some of the construction involved with building Beijing’s newest and soon to be completed subway Line 4.
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