... not. Katie Melua is quite wrong. You could get the impression that there were nine million cars and taxis here.
Anyway, here’s a picture of the view from our window at our hotel.
This is a traditional residential area called hutong. It’s an architecture that was inspired by the yurts of the mongolian nomads in ancient times. Back then, four of those little houses built one block with a little yard in the middle. Nowadays, due to lack of space, those yards are practically non-existent. People constructed additional rooms in there like storage rooms or bathrooms.
Because that’s the thing: traditionally, those tiny houses don’t have any water connection and no sewer, either. This is why there are public toilets every 50 metres. For most people in this area, these public toilets are the only option for, well, you know.
Still, the hutong area is quite hip (you can actually see hipsters!), with bars, cafés, restaurants and little shops and food stands. You get churros as well as takoyaki or even a German style breakfast (with multi-grain rolls!). The pictures might illustrate this lively spot:
You might see the sign of the restaurant „Suzuki kitchen“ on the second picture on the left. Here a little close-up of their entrance and their chalk board outside:
I liked this restaurant because of their service. Normally, waitresses and waiters here are quite rough, don’t speak any English and tend to forget some of the food you ordered. Not here. They speak English and offer good service at ok prices.
So, this restaurant is inside the hutong area, but they have installed a toilet. It is possible to get connection to the water supply and the sewers. However, its usage is rather limited, as the following signs inside the restroom suggest:
This one’s understandable. The sewage pipes here are quite narrow so you better not throw any waste in there. Toilet paper also goes into an extra bin because of this.
Ok... this is... unusual. You’re not supposed to smoke, check. You’re not supposed to squat on the toilet, check.*
But you’re not supposed to poop there, either. I guess, the pipes... you get the point.
*Most public toilets here are those “Turkish” toilets where you squat down over a “hole”.