One of our first meals was Peking duck, of course. As we were a group of 16, we always sat around two large circular tables with a kind of Lazy Susan in the middle. All the vegetables, soup (rather tasteless), fluffy rice and meat dishes would be placed there and everyone could take as much as he liked. In the photo you can see the chef carving up the duck.
We entirely preferred the food which can be seen in the second row, cooked by a professional cook who lives in a hutong – a sort of narrow alleyway near the Forbidden City. She makes a little extra money cooking on her tiny double stove for foreign guests. Unfortunately, the authorities would like to tear down the old, low houses and replace them with high-risers. We read a newspaper article that some houses had their doorway cemented closed, leaving the inhabitants to climb in and out of a window.
We also took a ride in a bicycle riksha through several hutongs. Although they are not very pretty, they still have the right size for a neighborly lifestyle. We did not see many dogs on a leash, nor cats. Instead, it is normal to keep chirping birds and singing crickets in cages near the door.