Hou Hai is right next to the Hutongs, which ultimately lead to TianMen Square and the Forbidden City. Hou Hai is a lake in the centre of Beijing, and is next to BeiHai.
Hou Hai has become pretty popular these days, because of the restaurants, and the bars that dot the lakeside. If you are a bit romantic, you can take your girlfriend for a ride on the boats at night. The difference in character between the Beijing people and the Shanghainese is pretty obvious, when you look at the kind of people in the bars, and the kind of music that is played. While you do have the normal girlie bars in Beijing, you'll also find some pretty nice bars, with some good old fashioned rock and roll music.
The above photo was taken from the rooftop of a Vietnamese restaurant, which is on the side of Hou Hai that adjoins the Hu Tongs. Hutongs are formed by narrow alleys that connect the traditional courtyard style residences. The alleys are generally made in straight lines, that criss cross each other. They are a hub of life. Or, they were.
Nowadays, tourists pop into the hutongs, to get a view of traditional life in China, and they often try to surmise what the life would have been like.
During the evening in question, I had gone to the restaurant, with two colleagues - one German and one American - and, a very pretty Croatian doctor. My two friends were taken up by her, but I think that she liked my exotic brown skin.
Puffing himself, like a puffin, my German colleague looked over at the alleyways, and said (pompously), "Rajiv, you must go into the hutongs, and experience real life"
Real life? Blimey, I swore silently. I am Indian. I have 'real life' thrown at me all the time!!
However, you know us Indians. We are polite to a fault. Ha!Ha!
I ambled over to the other wall, looked over at the sun going down over the Forbidden City, and turned to the young doc and said, "Why don't you come over here, my dear, and look at this.."
Real life went out of the window. Sun going down over the Forbidden City ruled! I turned to look at my two colleagues, who had turned a purple hue, as if they were about to burst a blood vessel or two. They could have killed me, so I quickly hurried over to the table to retrieve my beer, before they put something strange into it. You know - Vietnamese restaurant in China.. Who knows what sort of ingredients they were hiding and passing on to my two friends.
The evening was done, and night was falling. And so we had dinner and went down..