The Hutong alleyway.
Ah, the Beijing hutong alleyway. I often read about finding the "old china" amidst the rebuilding process. If it exists, these are one of the places you'll seek it out. Hutongs are narrow alleyways and streets, here they are joined by traditional courtyard living spaces. Sadly, their numbers decrease year by year, hundreds being demolished in the rebuilding process. However, quite a few have been preserved by the government, but that means it's filled with trendy cafes, restaurants, and Starbucks.
I felt a mix of happiness and depression being on the main drag of one. I suppose any preservation of the old history is good in this case. If you ignore the crappier chains, there's a sizeable amount of local goods and food to be found. Any sadness melts away when you take it in all in. If you close your eyes, it could be any year in that street, the bike merchants peddling along yelling out their wares. I felt better as I watched more than a few sets of happy locals mingle with tourists. Still, you can find what you're looking for here.
A little girl spotted me filming, and played the disappearing game, popping in and out, being shy. Finally she came over and gave me a blunt "HELLO!", which was the only English word she knew. She beckoned me to follow her. Always being aware, especially considering children are the first to find you with one less wallet, I agreed as she was particularly adorable and excited. She wanted to show me her rabbits, which we fed together. She also fed the anthills with the same food. Classic. Cheers, friends.