Tianjin 天津

Trip Start Feb 27, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Tianjin,
Sunday, October 6, 2013

One of the days we had off for the National Holiday, Pia, our American friend Taylor, and I decided to go to Tianjin, Beijing's nearest city. We took the high-speed train, and, going at 288km/hour we arrived in Tianjin in exactly 30 minutes.
With the air quality in Beijing being categorized as 'hazardous' for most of the week- making many people feel dizzy and unwell, I was happy to leave Beijing for a day.  Unfortunately, the pollution in Tianjin was just as thick. Unfortunately, the pollution levels will only get worse as the temperatures drop, so it is just about getting used to it.
Tianjin was previously used as a trading port, and until the 1930s, was the largest commercial city in China.  Due to this, Tianjin was the home of many Western companies.  It was one of the first cities in China to really open the country up to the Western world.  As a result, the Western influence is obvious as you travel around the city. Beautiful old European-style buildings litter the skyline making it difficult to believe that it is a Chinese city.  My travel companions; my roommate Pia, and our American neighbour, Taylor, and I kept saying how much of an interesting East meets West fusion it is.
We visited an Ancient street-- a ready-made tourist hub of souvenirs and food styled in an area to look like an ancient Chinese hutong.  The ancient street was even complete with traditional ancient escalators in the centre.  It was there that we did test some snacks that Tianjin is famous for. One was a porridge-like dessert with nuts and sugar, and another famous one were soft rice cakes with jam or Nutella.  Ancient Street was interesting to go to, but I tire easily of places that are specially made to be a tourist trap.  Especially here, with artificial ancient buildings which contain little else but expensive souvenirs.
We moved over to Five Avenues.  This was the area of Tianjin that the richest people called home--a reason why it is named after the famous 5th Avenue of New York.  The buildings in this area were mostly designed to each individual's preference, but they all clearly had a largely Western influence.  The one house which was more eclectic than all the others was the Porcelain House, where the designer sourced broken pieces of porcelain from all over the world to make collages around the outside of the house. It was obviously a very meticulous job when it was done, but the results were worth it.  The house really is like a piece of artwork.
Next on our little checklist of places was the Italian Style town. I adore the name of this place, because unlike a 'China Town' in Melbourne, the name makes no promises that this street will be a genuine replica of the country, but it is merely inspired by it. It is an Italian Style Town--- it is probably very different to any real town in Italy, but that's okay.  It's a pretty little street, which was also a tourist-made destination, but it was pleasant to walk down because it wasn't over crowded, live music was playing, and the place had a really nice atmosphere.  Restaurants lined the streets, and we picked one where we could sit outside and watch as everyone else was walking by as we ate our lunch.  Being in the Italian Style Town, we had pizza and pasta.
The Italian Style town had some beautiful marble statues around the street, and it was hard to tell if they were genuine or not, but they looked good, and suited the area.
We moved from this place to Food Street, a large building which welcomes around 60,000 people per day.  Each shop contains their own specialty, and the mall had everything from sweet to savoury, salty to sour.  We tried bits and pieces, many were so different to anything we had tasted back home. Snacks are something that I am not sure I could ever fully embrace in China.  Whilst I reach for a chocolate, most Chinese people prefer saltier snacks made of unidentifiable (to me) ingredients.
After a really long day of jumping from place to place to place, we asked our next tax driver to take us somewhere for dinner that would have a view of the river.  He told us he knew exactly the place, and took us to an outdoor market-style street vendors who were situated on the pier and surrounded many tables and chairs. Sitting on the waterfront, in the air, was so peaceful and relaxing. Overlooking the beautiful lake and seeing the lights dance on the water was pretty magical. It had been awhile since I had seen water like that. Right next to us were people selling lanterns, so the three of us bought a lantern to release into the sky. It is actually quite difficult, and we had a few failed attempts before our little lantern finally started rising by itself. One of the failed attempts was it rolling along the boardwalk, bumping a few walkers before gaining some air and rising. I was afraid we were going to have a case to answer for burning people and/or the boardwalk before it flew away.
It was such a fun day to experience another city that I had never been to before.  It is an interesting place, but we did the main attractions in one day.
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Lyn on

It sounds a fascinating city. Andy will be proud of all your research and effort to make the most of your day there.

Rebecca on

Hmm, looks good!

Joan Jay on

What a wonderful day you had. So much nicer with friends. The lanterns would have been a high light for me...Glad you are having fun love Nanna

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