Just yesterday a reporter passed by our hutong and caught Fred and me when we were just about to leave for lunch. She writes for the travel section on the China Radio International website. And yesterday she was looking at the up and coming Wudaoying Hutong. Below are some extracts from that article. To read the full article and see all the pictures please go here: Original full version article on CRI website
Wudaoying: New Life in An Old Hutong
2011-02-09 16:26:32 CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Duan Xuelian By Angela Pruszenski
Wudaoying Hutong near Beijing’s Lama Temple has undergone a rapid transformation, establishing the alley as the city’s newest trendy hangout.
A part-time employee at Natooke fixed-gear bike shop, shows off his ride. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]
By Angela Pruszenski
Hutong shopping streets offer a unique getaway from Beijing’s plentiful, modern shopping malls. Until recently, Nanluoguxiang was the only legitimate location for shoppers seeking this unique atmosphere. Over the last year and a half, the Wudaoying Hutong near Beijing’s Lama Temple has undergone a rapid transformation, establishing the alley as the city’s newest trendy hangout.
Leading the way for the alleyway’s new life is the Vineyard Café, which opened 2006. For a long time, the café was the only reason for most people to visit the alleyway, and many of the café owner’s neighbors were skeptical of his vision. “They couldn’t understand how a western restaurant would possibly work in a hutong like this in Beijing. Obviously, we chose this spot because it’s a great hutong and because of its location, near the Confucius Temple, the Lama Temple and ease of access, compared to Houhai and Nanluoguxiang,” Vineyard Cafe’s owner, Will Yorke, explained. “Other people have since realized the quality of the street and moved in as well.”
The charming, renewed hutong spans the distance between Andingmen subway station and Yonghegong subway station. While much of Nanluoguxiang has been taken over by souvenir-style trinket shops, Wudaoying has a refreshing variety of businesses, including a tanning studio, clothing shops, home décor shops, specialty stores, restaurants and bars. Shopkeepers are engaging but not pushy, and many of the business owners can be found tending to their shops.
Anchoring the unique atmosphere of Wudaoying is Natooke, a shop specializing in custom-fixed gear bikes and juggling equipment. When owner Ines Brunn, opened the shop in 2008, she sought a hutong location. After searching Beiluoguxiang and the Gulou area, she settled on Wudaoying. Natooke is the only fixed gear bike shop in Beijing, opened to serve the needs of the growing crowd of bicycle enthusiasts in the city. “We had the group, but no shop,” she says of her decision to launch a fixed gear bike shop. “It’s really a niche market.”
Aside from Mandela and Natooke, other specialty stores include Save As, which stocks vintage keepsakes and vinyl records. Argo, a Greek restaurant, and Saffron, which serves Spanish-inspired cuisine, stand out among the street’s dessert cafes and Western eateries.
Shoppers can easily spend an afternoon exploring Wudaoying, and all that its unique, easy-going culture has to offer. Most of the shops are closed on Mondays, so visitors should plan trips accordingly.
A “hutong” refers to an alleyway surrounded by traditional courtyard homes. Having once dominated Beijing, they are now facing the challenge of staying relevant in the modern era.
The Beijing municipal government has taken notice of the struggle, targeting the Wudaoying Hutong for special development and designating it as a pedestrian street. To help with redevelopment, the government offers subsidies for renovating traditional homes, and taken on the bill for renovating state-owned buildings on the street.
I also found this article on People’s Daily Online