Feb 09, 2015 at 09:24 PM
Lakes Houhai and Qianhai had been declared as official Imperial Pleasure Gardens during the Guangxi reign of the Ching Dynasty. They were then off-limits to the general public. After the establishment of PRC in Beijing as it's Capital, the lake Gardens were opened for the public. Houhai stands for the quietness, familiarity and coziness of the Hutong and the Arts, Calligraphy and Literature through the heritage of the Imperial legacy and the magnificent former Imperial Mansions surrounding the Lake. Lakes are now a popular recreational area, perfect for boat rides and even swimming during Beijing's hot & humid summers. Mahjong or playing cards is another favourite among the locals here. Lately many bars and dancing floors have sprung up in the lake area, making it a new nightlife hotspot. The real popularity of modern day Houhai with it's bars began in right earnest when local Star and Socialite, ex-concert cellist Bai Feng opened his 'No Name' bar. This Bar drew in the City Hip by word of mouth. The entire lake area has been transformed into a new bohemian Beijing with plenty of neon lights, modern and mixed styles of music and other attractions. A growing stream of backpackers and other international tourists are the current crop of residents in this area. Many of them are migrants and do not have the permit to settle in the inner city. Their language is not the Beijing-toned Mandarin. Their hometown dialect versus the possibilities and freedoms of life in a big city causes risk and uncertainty, high rents and self expectations. Lakes is a chance to see how Beijingers spend their leisure time. During winters many people can be seen enjoying on ice skates (and ice bikes) on the lake and the bars/restaurants filled with people. While there are shops and street vendors all over, it feels more of the local populace in casual mood than the hustle-bustle of Wangfujian and other shopping hubs. Worth an afternoon stroll. In the evening the lakes come alive with live music, dance and grooves.
Dec 20, 2014 at 01:15 AM
Everybody visits the Forbidden City, of course, but a stroll around the adjoining lakes, which used to be part of the emperors' vast pleasure gardens is a wonderful complement. Do not pass up renting a rowboat and taking a float around Beihai (or North Lake) Park, while contemplating the huge white Buddhist stupa built in 1271 by Kublai Khan. The three lakes — Qianhai (Front Lake), Houhai (Rear Lake) and Xihai (West Lake) — north of Beihai and about a mile north of the Forbidden City are known collectively as Shichahai and are ringed by restaurants and bars. Try the wildly popular cuisine of the Hakka minority group at Han Cang on the Shichahai East Bank. Visit the pretty lakes on a crystal-clear late winter afternoon or anytime throughout the year. The ambience and feel is wonderful. It is full of families, young kids and mostly locals enjoying a nice sunny afternoon. For the tourists the scenic beauty is highlighted by ice covered lake that is full of families on little chairs and carts skating around the ice. These are small pleasures of the trip to the lakes that will surely linger on in memories. From tiny tots, young kids to grown adults skating all around on little chairs is an amazing sight to behold. It was just wonderful. It is great to stroll around the lake while savouring local street food. Local Chinese snacks of squids, starfish, kebabs, fruits, ice cream, candies, and marshmallows and many more can be sampled while ambling down the lakeside. Certainly these are treats, and it is just awesome and fun to eat! There are cute little touristy streets nearby, one block north of the lake. They are full of people and full of touristy shops and worth the 10 minute stroll and haggling. One can get to buy cheap souvenirs from these shops than the bigger malls and shops. You can rent bicycles to ride around the lake, and stop at a number of bars, cafés and little dessert shops. as the dusk falls and the numerous shops and vendors switch on their neons, the entire area looks bewitching. the sun setting down in the lakes is truly spectacular. This place is abuzz more in its night avatar. Nightlife by the lakes is popular with the tourists as well as locals. The numerous bars and cafes have a good drinks selection. Visitors from the nearby embassies and foreigners on trips to China can be seen enjoying the night by the lake. Do include it in your itinerary while travelling to Beijing. It will be unforgettable experience! ...