Tuesday morning dawned grey, chilly, and rainy. Tired of crowded landmarks, and dulled by the weather, we declared it a good down-day. After a leisurely breakfast, my father expressed an interest in shopping. We caught a cab and drove in the convoluted circles it takes to get places in Beijing, finally emerging into the Liulichang Street, a market road lined with antique shops. Intrepid explorers armed with umbrellas, we set out to find what we could find. What we found was an abundance of damp locals, and desperate shop-keepers; we were the only tourists on the block.
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Incongruous exterior decor, considering the merchandise display. Two classical civilizations in cohabitation.
A bicycle-cab driver, lacking in fares, stops to negotiate for some peaches.
Even the alleyways are prime real estate space.
A shopkeeper stands proudly next to her Mao poster.
Reaching the end of the antiques road, we splashed our way through an alley and into the smaller, squalid streets of one of Beijing's less-prestigious areas, where we caught a glimpse of some every-day life.
An average store-front. This one seemed to specialize in toilet paper, chewing gum, and plastic toys.
A doorway to the courtyard of one of the hu-tong, the traditional Beijing neighborhoods. These entryways are built with a baffle-like design, in order to block the evil spirits from coming into the houses from the street.
Emerging onto the neighborhood's main market-street.
With so little space, privacy was almost completely lacking. People seemed to spend their time out on the streets, with all the doors flung wide open, sitting on stoops, calling and laughing together like an enormous muddy living-room.
Break-time for this bicycle-driver.
This area across the street had been completely surrounded by barricades, and boarded up. Notices warned that it was scheduled for demolition and renovation. We saw areas like this all over the city, and deduced that Beijing seems to be working full out to shine the city up for the 2008 Olympics.