Ten years ago the only decent spots to get a cup of coffee or a drink in Beijing were the dreary lobbies of big business hotels. The premium places to buy gifts to take home were the state-run Friendship Store and the knockoff-filled warrens of Silk Alley. One welcome result of the Chinese capital's headlong transformation has been the emergence of less depressing places to shop and hang out. Chief among them is Nanluoguxiang, a narrow lane of traditional courtyards in the city center, jammed with bars, cafés, restaurants, hostels and shops selling Beijing-themed T-shirts and handicrafts like traditional paper cuttings. Business on the street has boomed, and shops close and open on a near weekly basis. Some old courtyards at the southern entrance of the street were recently torn down to make way for a subway stop, a change that is likely to bring even more visitors to this ancient street, and continue to drive its unceasing transformation.
By Austin Ramzy