A 100 year old tree, built into Kelly's courtyard wall. Photo by CRI's William Wang, taken February, 2012.
Tucked away in one of Beijing's alleyway hutongs, doorways open up to families' traditional courtyard residences. One unmarked door is the same as the other abodes, but hidden behind it is Kelly's Courtyard, a clandestine haven for travelers looking for something different.
Although it is grouped together with other hostels in the listings, Kelly's doesn't quite fit in with the others. A mere nine rooms offer a degree of intimacy unheard of in typical hostels. The warm staff is accordingly small, happy to share information and stories about the city.
Kelly and her husband Zheng don't run this place strictly as a business, but more as a labor of love. They both have day jobs; the Courtyard is their pet project, but one they treat seriously.
Talking with Zheng, it's obvious how much he cares about Beijing and its traditions. Zheng's family's been in the same Beijing courtyard residence for 15 generations, he proudly states. He's big on Beijing history and culture and the preservation of the two. He sighs with resignation when noting how historic hutong residences commonly make way for shopping malls and apartment buildings.