Olympic homestays open door to Beijing life(1)
2008-07-15 04:40:53 [ Big Normal Small ]     Comment

Special report: 2008 Olympic Games

By Xinhua writers Lou Chen and Ji Shaoting

BEIJING, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Zhu Baohua beamed proudly as he showed a group of American visitors a century-old wooden bed in his house.

Zhu, in his fifties, is the owner of a siheyuan, a traditional courtyard home in downtown Beijing. He was among 598 Beijing homeowners selected as an Olympic host by the city tourism administration on Friday.

Olympic homestays open door to Beijing life

Zhu Rongjing (R) and Zhu Youyi paste paper-cut decorations to the window of their house in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2008. Zhu's family was honored Olympic Homestay plate Friday. To supplement Beijing's hotel resources, 598 homestay households were selected, offering 726 rooms for more than 1,000 potential guests. An authorization ceremony for those families was held on Friday morning at Shichahai, a popular bar spot in central Beijing. The "Olympic family hotels" program, which was created in April, offers foreign visitors a chance to experience Beijing citizens' real lives. (Xinhua) 
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The administration initiated the homestay program in April, offering overseas visitors a chance to get to the heart of the Beijing life.

As a supplement to the city's hotels, these households could offer 726 rooms for more than 1,000 visitors, said Xiong Yumei, deputy director of Beijing Tourism Administration.

Most of the families lived near major stadiums, trunk roads, cultural sites and hutongs, or alleyways, making it easy for visitors to enjoy the capital, Xiong said.

Before selecting the families, officials inspected ventilation, lighting, fire safety and sanitation conditions to make sure they met requirements.

Officials recommended rates at 60 to 80 U.S. dollars for each bed per night, but said individual rates could be negotiated between the visitors and the landlords.

For Beijing natives like Zhu, hosting overseas tourists is not only a chance to make a little cash, but also a chance to share his culture.

Zhu's house was bought by his family in the early 1900s. In 2004, he spent more than 4 million yuan (579,710 U.S. dollars) on renovations: "westernizing" the toilet, installing air conditioningand high-definition televisions.

"The whole family are learning the history of siheyuan and hutong. We are professional tour guides now," Zhu said. He also invited his nephews, nieces and their friends who speak English to translate for visitors.

On Sunday, the Zhu family received dozens of foreign tourists who come to see the home.

"In your constitution, you have the pursuit of happiness. Although our cultures are different, we do have a lot in common," a nephew, Zhao Dongyan, told some U.S. visitors, pointing to a red Chinese character "Fu", which translates to blessing or happiness.

"I'm improving my English, so that I can explain better when more visitors come during the Olympics," said Zhao, a new college graduate.

Like the Zhu family, other hosts are preparing to receive guests.

Wang Zhixi, in her fifties, owns a smaller siheyuan near Zhu's. She and her husband are seizing every chance to learn English so that they can tell foreigners about siheyuan.

Olympic homestays open door to Beijing life

Zhu Rongjing (L) and Zhu Youyi show the Olympic Homestay china plate at home in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2008. Zhu's family was honored Olympic Homestay plate Friday. To supplement Beijing's hotel resources, 598 homestay households were selected, offering 726 rooms for more than 1,000 potential guests. An authorization ceremony for those families was held on Friday morning at Shichahai, a popular bar spot in central Beijing. The "Olympic family hotels" program, which was created in April, offers foreign visitors a chance to experience Beijing citizens' real lives. (Xinhua)

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