Gulou East Avenue runs east from the old Drum Tower (Gulou) and Clock Tower (Zhonglou) towards Dongzhimen. It is a main street, but still a two lane two way thoroughfare in a city of massive wide boulevards. Not surprisingly, it is slow going for vehicle traffic most of the time. Because this is one of the few areas of the city that still looks even remotely like “old” Beijing, it is a big draw for tourists, especially of the domestic variety. I suspect this has made local officials reluctant to widen the street. The fact that the PLA owns much of the land on the north side of the street has, no doubt, contributed to the difficulties of doing anything to widen the street. I am certainly not unhappy about this. Gulou East Avenue remains a two lane road and the neighborhood has been spared the wrecker’s ball in the name of “progress”.
Most of the buildings along the street are relatively new but designed to look old. They are supposed to give the street the flavor of the old city, though I have been told that many of the designs are not authentic old Beijing styles. Be that as it may, I love this part of Beijing. The street is tree-lined and shady and, most importantly, it is on a human scale. Unlike much of Beijing with its massive architectural monuments to modernity that China’s urban planners are so enamored of. People can sit on stoops and while away the time with gossip. And that is definitely authentic old Beijing!