CITY GUIDE >Highlights
Smokin' good place
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-13 09:47

Houhai Lake, dotted with paddle boats and lit up by the luring lights of the bars and restaurants that surround it, can easily cause you to miss the Yandai Xiejie hutong, located north of the Yinding Bridge. Yandai Xiejie means "slanted tobacco pipe street" and that it is. The street, just less than 300m long, represents a pipe with the narrow alleys forming its "stem" and the western entrance giving it the look of the "bowl" of a tobacco pipe.

Smokin' good place

Some of Yandai Xiejie's current coffee shops, including Home-Roasted Coffee, which greets customers at the northeast gate, were once well-known pipe shops. Although these shops are no longer the most popular, hundreds of pipes still grace the shelves of many stores in an attempt to maintain their reputation as a tobacco lover's rapture.

According to Leon Lin, a tour guide for China eTours, after the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), this hutong became a harbor for antique sales. Since then, the street has seen the coming and going of several bars, restaurants, clothing shops, and hair salons.

"Now, Slanting Tobacco Pipe Street has become a special commercial street, with nearly 60 businesses in the area," says Lin.

The impression of old China, however, remains the same with this ever-changing hutong. Bamboo and stone courtyard homes grow lotus leaves on their rooftops, shirtless neighbors cluster nearby, laughing, fanning themselves and playing games in the summer heat, while a woman on a three-wheeled cart rides up and down the street calling out for recyclable glass bottles.

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