Beijing Life: Beyond the Tourist Attractions

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Everyone knows about the famous sites in Beijing: Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Great Wall. But what do people who live and work in Beijing actually do? Some tourist attractions like shopping on the only pedestrian street in Beijing, Wangfujing (王府井 wángfǔjǐng), or eating and drinking at Houhai (后海 hòuhǎi) are also popular with residents. Some residents even live near the tourist areas in hutongs, especially wealthy people who have renovated old siheyuan (四合院 sìhéyuàn) houses. More often though, people live In tall apartment buildings near large parks where they go for walks after dinner, boating in the summer, and ice skating in the winter. There are lots of lakes around Beijing which have boats to rent in the summer and freeze in the winter for ice skating. A popular one inside Beijing University is the Nameless Lake (未名湖 wèimíng hú).

The most popular foods in Beijing are also the most famous ones: roast duck (烤鸭 kǎoyā) and hot pot (火锅 huǒguō). However, for roast duck, most residents in Beijing don't go to the restaurants that are popular with tourists but have their own neighborhood restaurant that's less crowded, closer to home, and just as tasty as the famous expensive restaurants. Going out for roast duck or hot pot is the most common ways to celebrate events like birthdays. For daily meals, Beijing street snacks are popular, especially dou zhe'r (豆汁儿, dòu zhēr) which is preserved soy milk. It has a strong and pungent smell and is an acquired taste, much like blue cheese, and can be found in every residential neighborhood.

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For fun, people spend time in neighborhood parks, go shopping at markets for bargains or large shopping malls, and, when the weather is good, go on day or weekend trips outside of Beijing. The Great Wall is a short drive from the city and, besides visiting the wall itself, people like to go camping in parks nearby. Since Beijing is near Mongolia, there are grasslands to the northwest where people go to ride horses. To the southeast of Beijing is the Bohai Gulf with waterside towns to visit.


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