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Preserving the Charm of Beijing's Hutongs

Hutong

In and around the Gulou district of China’s development-hungry capital, an enclave of hutongs—alleys formed by walls of traditional courtyard residences—has managed to dodge the wrecking ball. Determined to preserve the charm (and avoid the fate of hutongs in nearby Nanluoguxiang, now overrun with souvenir shops), entrepreneurs have moved deeper into these narrow streets. French-owned Wuhao showcases one-off furniture and accessories by emerging talents. At Good Design Institute, everyday objects get a twist, such as lampshades made of bed slats. Serk stocks carbon-fiber bikes—and doubles as a bar serving Belgian beer. For a more local tipple, head to Mai (40 Beiluoguxiang, Dongcheng), known for its craft cocktails.

Photo courtesy of Serk

Hanok: Korea's Answer to Japanese Ryokan

hanok

These cozy dwellings with rice-paper walls and plush futons on heated stone floors—Korea’s answer to Japanese ryokan—have been frequented by non-Westerners for years. Now more upscale offerings are luring foreigners, with many popping up in Seoul’s 600-year-old Bukchon district. Some even host kimchi-making or dado (tea ceremony) classes. Chiwoonjung ($$$$)—a house once rented by President Lee Myung-Bak—has been reborn as an inn with four simple, antique-filled rooms. Kundaemunjip ($) mixes traditional architecture with modern touches (rain showers; frosted glass). At Rakkojae ($$), one of the most revered hanok, the intricate sliding doors are by master carpenter Chung Young-Jin.

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

Photo courtesy of Kundaemunjip

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