Beijing Backpacking, Day 12: What’s A Touristy Area Like Before Tourists?

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I HAD TO head to Wangfujing early on a Sunday morning to meet a friend visiting from overseas. The location is hardly anything new – Wangfujing is known for its upmarket (read: global brands) retail, and consequently, tourists flock here, and the hotel chains that cater to them do so too. But while Wangfujing bustles in the evening and lights up with neon, you’d hardly expect anyone living quite leisurely as a tourist to be an early riser.

Which makes Wangfujing quite the more interesting in the morning – as the local shopkeepers are well awake preparing for the influx of tourists later in the day. There’s one particular side street – appropriately named ‘snack street’ by the gate – which has a more local selection of tastes – and as the locals rise and fill up, this place is bustling well before the rest of the vicinity.

This is probably the only time of day which you get to see such a juxtaposition – elderly men wheeling carts in front of brand name boutiques; families caring multiple skewers of meat past McDonald’s and KFC outlets while the stall keepers sweep the remnants of last night’s rain off the street and into the gutter. And one more thing – the skewered meat is, to say the least, far from Western taste buds.

It’s a side of Wangfujing that very few foreigners seem to see – but is vet easy for them to get to. It may not be as rewarding as going somewhere far flung, but for the conservative traveller, thru may not need to go off the beaten track as much as turn up off the beaten time.

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