In the morning, over the simple breakfast on offer, Frank Lee had the same question. “Ah, how ever DID you find this place?”
“You said you wanted to stay in a hutong, and this is a hutong, and it was cheap.”
“I said I wanted to SEE a hutong, not STAY in one.”
“Oh.” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutong)
There was no questioning the authenticity of the place. It was an ancient home of eight rooms, each with ornate wooden carved windows and doors nestled around a covered courtyard, with a grand tree thrusting out of its tiled floor and exploding through the glass ceiling. Our room was small, but clean, with a decently firm bed. Our host Mark, with whom we had corresponded by email, spoke English well. He and the two other staff were friendly, responsive and helpful. How much could one expect for $95 a night?
There was free wifi, but neither of could get on Facebook or Google. After much cursing we surmised that this was not a failure of the hotel, but the intention of the wary government. I was shocked to discover that without Google and Facebook I was an antisocial imbecile. Most problematic, Google Maps was unavailable, as was any site that USED Google Maps – which is just about every site there is. We would spend much time in the next few days relying on “maps” (colourful folding pieces of paper with diagrams, remember them?), and even worse, Yahoo!, which I’m quite certain nobody remembers. Did they get bought by the Party?
Continue reading 02. Authentic Beijing