Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fly by Knight Courtyard Hostel (夜奔北京 四合院客棧)

I have always wanted to stay at a traditional courtyard residence - siheyuan (四合院) - when I go to Beijing.  I finally have my wish fulfilled in my recent trip to Beijing!


From wikipedia:
Hutongs (胡同) are a type of narrow streets or alleys, most commonly associated with BeijingChina
Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.
Hutongs represent an important cultural element of the city of Beijing. Thanks to Beijing’s long history and status as capital for six dynasties, almost every hutong has its anecdotes, and some are even associated with historic events. In contrast to the court life and elite culture represented by the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven, the hutongs reflect the culture of grassroots Beijingers. The hutongs are residential neighborhoods which still form the heart of Old Beijing.
People say "He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man“.  I say "He who have not seen a Hutong have not seen Beijing".

As usual, I started my search from Hostelworld.com and after reading the reviews, I decided to stay with Fly by Knight.  The location was a little hard to find as hutongs are similar to alleys.  There are hundreds if not thousands of hutongs in Beijing, the taxi drivers are not going to memorize all of them.  Telling the intersection is the key.  (I don't recommend them if you have a lot of luggage as taxi can't go into all hutongs.  We had to walk to ours.)  


Our hostel is actually located next to another courtyard hotel - Beijing SiHe Courtyard Hotel (北京四合賓館).  We were told that this one is much nicer.  I did some research after I come back from my trip and found out this is the former residence of famous Chinese artist Mr. Mei Lan Fang (梅蘭芳)!!! Of course it is nicer (and the price too)!!!

We arrived late at night but the hostel offer late check-in.  The courtyard has a very different vibe at night compared to the morning.  It is very quiet and serene.  My friends said the pictures at night reminds them of thriller movies.  Well, I can sort of see that... :P


Everything inside the room is actually very modern.  In fact, I can even access to my Facebook account using the computer in the common room!  (Facebook is normally blocked in China.)

The place looks more inviting in the morning.  Again, it's very quiet as it's located in a residential area.  It's like stepping into a different world when you walk outside of the hostel.  Although the hostel is beautifully preserved, the neighborhood has been degraded from what it once was.  Case in point, there is a public restroom just outside of the hostel... 


Only the really rich and powerful can afford to live in courtyard residences that is so close to the Forbidden City!  We walked past this beautiful private courtyard residence and was pondering if the Head of the Internal Revenue lives there (since the office is just next door) and from the sneering of the locals, we got a feeling that even the Head of the Internal Revenue is neither rich or important enough to own such a residence...

A private residence inside the Hutong.  It's huge!  I figured it's probably the home of some important officials in Beijing!
This siheyuan took up 2 blocks!


Neighborhood nearby our hostel:

sifting sand
You will notice that I have pictures of dogs only this trip.  Somehow, the northerners are not very fond of cats... :(
In the past, courtyard residence are normally occupied by a single family only.
At the collapse of the feudal system after the Qing Dynasty,
these beautiful residences were subdivided and occupied by multiple households.
These residences that used to represent wealth and status are no more...
IRS of China
The Internal Revenue Office
If my hotel didn't include breakfast, this is where I would have gone...

Grilled donkey meat, anyone?  I pass.
Donkey Fire!?!?
Whatever they say, I am not eating donkey...

No.6 DengCao Hutong, DongCheng District, Beijing, China
Beijing Subway line 5 DongSi station (Exit C) 
北京地铁5号线东四站 (C 出口)
Tel: +86 10 6559 7966
Email: flybyknighthostel@gmail.com

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