Sometimes staying in an AirBnB that is a true ‘bed and breakfast’, rather than a private apartment, has advantages: you meet other travelers.
Check out photos of our AirBnB accommodation in Beijing here.
The location of Cindy’s bed and breakfast in Beijing was perfect: it is located in one of the old, traditional alleys of Beijing. Just walking to her family’s compound is an adventure.
When you are in the shaded, tree-lined alley it is really hard to believe that you are in an megapolis of twenty-five million people and only a few subway stops away from the Tiananmen Square and the Palace Museum (Forbidden City). It is quiet, calm and surprisingly clean. Older residents sit in front of their houses to talk or play cards, or they exercise in a small park where the kids of course immediately joined them.
Most of the houses are no more than one room large and every hundred meters or so you will find a public bathroom as the rooms don’t have any of their own. The alley has side-alleys of its own with even smaller rooms, about the size of our master bathroom at home, where an entire family will live, cook and sleep. Still the neighborhood feels serene and content, not desperate or sad.
Photo: public bathroom in the alley
Photo: Milo in the side-alley of the alley with about 10 ‘homes’
Cindy and Nick, the Chinese owner of our bed and breakfast and her Greek partner, were excellent hosts and great company. They gave us subway passes, a map of Beijing, a long list of local restaurant recommendations and a survival guide which warned us for Chinese rudeness with the explanation: ‘if people have never been respected, they don’t know how to respect others.’
Liv, my eleven year old daughter, said it well as she wrote in the guest book, on behalf of all of us:
Thank you for a wonderful stay in Beijing. I was a bit nervous about coming to such a big city but your friendliness really calmed my nerves. I love your little corner in Beijing. It is calm and quiet and my brothers and I played on the roof for what seemed like hours. I even had a choice between 5 different breads for breakfast! Nick, I will miss all of your jokes. And Cindy, I will miss your warm smile and long, black hair. Thanks for the necklaces by the way! I would love to visit you again in China, and I am excited to see your homeland Nick [he is from Greece]. Lots of love! Liv Levin. The girl with red hair, aka the window washer. P.S. I love your toaster! [which made smiley faces]
Photo: Liv eating smiley toast (with butter curls for hair and a mustache)
Photo: Liv’s entry in the guest book
What I will remember most about Cindy are her accusations that we were ’so white’ for countless reasons, including for giving our kids a say in our trip itinerary with ‘kids choose day’, and for feeling guilty when not buying a souvenir from an old lady.
At Cindy’s We also met Steve and Paula from Texas and even toured The Great Wall with them. We wrote about them here. If you haven’t read their story, please do. One day Eilam and I hope to follow in their footsteps.
All in all, Beijing scored pretty high in the ‘people, not places’ category. Liv very much wanted to stay longer. Perhaps we should seek out more of these small hostels along the way.
Photo: at a local dumpling place around the corner from our Beijing AirBnB