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It takes a good rickshaw tour to get a real glimpse of Beijing's old districts. And one rickshaw business gives tourists this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Taking a rickshaw ride through Beijing's old hutong district has continued to be one of the city's most iconic and locally supported tourist activities. Hutongs are narrow streets and alleys that are formed by residential buildings with courtyards.
[Song Guangxin, Rickshaw Driver of "Eight Lords of Houhai"]:
"The Houhai hutongs of Shichahai stand out from so many others in Beijing because they are the only cluster which is surrounded by water."
Houhai, a lake-centered district in Beijing, is home to a handful of the few hutong alleys and siheyuan courtyard residences that remain in the city.
The district is Beijing's most suitable place for a rickshaw tour.
Rickshaw tours to Houhai began in 1994, when the old-style hutongs were still commonplace across Beijing.
The "Eight Lords of Houhai" is Beijing's prominent rickshaw business. It consists of eight driving guides who entertain passengers with various anecdotes and stories on the tour.
The five-mile rickshaw tour around Shicha Lake, which is lined with hip clubs, shops and restaurants, usually takes about an hour. The bustling area now hosts millions of visitors every year from around the world.
[Liu Chunhong, Rickshaw Driver of "Eight Lords of Houhai"]:
"I have been around the Shichahai area forever, and I love every inch of the place."
Few tourists to Beijing would miss a visit to the Great Wall, but as many locals would suggest, it takes a rickshaw ride to the city's ancient hutongs to make one's trip complete.