Yeah, I know. Most of the people I hang out with would rather have unprotected sex with a wood chipper than walk down Nanluoguxiang on purpose. It’s touristy. Crowded. Expensive. Commercialized. All true.
I think the key though to appreciating Nanluo is to accept it for what it is: An outdoor version of a kitschy shopping mall. It’s not a historic hutong or cultural street. It’s a mall without walls, roof, or proper restrooms. Which might be, for many, the 10th circle of Hell, but we live in a city with a glut of sterile indoor malls completely devoid of life.
Say what you want about Nanluo, it’s got life. Sometimes too much of it. Endless, prattling, preening, strutting, sprouts in their hair, hand-holding triple friends across a busy street kind of life.
But there’s one other reason I like Nanluo. Beijing today is increasingly a segregated town. Foreigners have their places. Local Chinese theirs. Expats have their favorite haunts. Tourists gather in others. There are not too many spaces where you can find somebody from whatever group you want to name — Old Beijing Laobaixing, local student, domestic tourist, foreign traveler, jaded expat, or recent arrival — hanging out on a sunny afternoon.
So, yes. It’s Hell. But it’s a diverse kind of misunderstood hell…with Ei Mio which may, in fact, be the best Frozen Yogurt shop west of Korea.