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Pimp My Hutong

There's no doubt that the Olympic fervour is having a big impact on the hutongs of Beijing. Just as Melbourne is all laneways, the real life in Beijing is in these tiny side lanes usually slicing off main streets around the city centre. As you walk down a hutong you'll be beeped aside by cars (even on pedestrian only streets) and rung aside by speeding bikes and trishaws. All hutongs run east to west which a podcast told me was all about about the feng shui and they make a scenic way to amble between the frantic mainstreets.

Some hutongs are being pimped up for tourists. It starts with a backpackers then a cafe owner will stop sellling bbq snacks on sticks from their window because foreigners will pay more to sit down and before you know it you have cafes with Budweiser logos (and Coopers). Property prices soar and locals get pushed out to the suburbs. With shared public toilets (many hutong residents don't have their own toilets) and crowded living, some locals are happy to see the hutongs become tourist ghettoes, while tourist themselves want authentic experiences and sit down lavatories.

Overheard in the hutong: Tourist notices they're standing near a puddle as they pose for a photo, "Do you think this is pee?"