We have had a few problems accessing the TravelBlog site lately and they have just upgraded to a new version. I worked in the software industry for years and know how this can cause some excitement. I have finally been able to complete the Tianjin blog while taking a break on our Hong Kong/Macau trip. Tianjin - the city
Tianjin is one of the four municipal areas in China that are so big they are like provinces. Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing are the others. It is directly west of Dalian, about an hour by air. You can’t get there directly as the Bohai Sea is in the way. The Tianjin municipality is between Beijing and the sea and historically was the gateway to the Capital. It was the home to many foreign concessions after the Opium Wars. Old friends
We had always wanted to visit the city and the task was made easier this year because our former neighbours, Thomas and Feng-wei (See Hong Kong Christmas 2008), moved there for this school year. Unfortunately, Feng-wei had to go back to Canada but Thomas was a great host and tour guide. The driver that took us to the
The Dagu Fort
The walls of the fort are slowly crumbling but there is still enough to give you the feeling of what is was like for the defenders.
airport was Thomas and Feng-wei’s driver when they were here. She was happy to hear we were going to visit the “Christmas man”. You’ll know what she meant if you check out the pictures.
We stayed Friday night at their apartment at the school in TEDA (Tianjin Economic Development Area). This is like our KaiFaQu except bigger. The school has a bit of a different flavour because it is right in the middle of the development area with wide streets and tall buildings. We are 20 kilometres out of KaiFaQu near a small, older town.
Thomas gave us a brief tour of the school and we sampled the fare at one of the Irish Pubs near the school. This is another big difference between the schools, the proximity to a large variety of ”western” restaurants. The Dagu Fort
Our plan was to spend most of our time in the “old city” but before we headed into town, Thomas wanted us to see the Dagu Fort ruins at the mouth of the Hai River which leads from the Bohai Sea through Tianjin and ultimately ends up in Beijing. This was one of the series of forts overrun
Just a few of the hundreds of students crawling over the fort grounds. They ran the kids through the museum so fast that we couldn't imagine them learning anything. But we did.
by the British and French during the two Opium Wars. Thomas was astounded to find a new museum had sprouted up in the land approaches to the old fort since the last time he had visited, less than a year ago. We were impressed with the museum and especially the amount and quality of the English translations. This was one of the best museums we have run across in China.
This day the fort was overrun again, this time by school kids. There seemed like hundreds of elementary school kids all over the complex. They seemed more interested in the three foreigners sharing the site with them. They were all very friendly and many tried to share their knowledge of English with us. The Astor Hotel
A combination of Qinggui and cabs got us into the old city and we checked into our hotel for Saturday night. Thomas had selected the Astor Hotel which is a real gem. The British built the first stages in 1863 and there were major additions added in 1924 and 1984. Our room was in the 1984 section and was the biggest hotel “room” we have stayed in anywhere. In other hotels
Overlooking the harbour entrance
Even though the river has changed course many times you still get the feel of what the defenders must has sensed during the Opium Wars
what we had would be called a suite. We were given a tour of the other sections of the hotel where you can still rent rooms that are as close to the original as possible. The bathrooms have all been upgraded (thank goodness) but there are plenty of antique pieces in the rooms. These rooms are smaller and darker (dark wood panelling and smaller windows) and, since you pay a premium to stay in them, not as good value, in our opinion.
We got to see the lobby of the original hotel where (they told us) Pu Yi, the last Chinese Emperor and his wife came to dance every Friday evening. These walls have seen a lot of history.
We were going out for a walk but decided to stop for coffee because there was a group of musicians playing some beautiful classical music in the atrium. The menu included “afternoon tea”, just like the Empress Hotel in Victoria but without the huge price. What a fabulous way to spend a couple of hours. The Walkabout
It did, however, delay our walk through the old financial district to look at all the fabulous architecture left
The Irish Pub
We were impressed to see the Canadian flag prominently displayed.
over from the late 1800s. Turned out this wasn’t all bad because many of the buildings have gorgeous lighting displays and the walk back to the hotel was a treat of a different kind. Even though we had seen some of the buildings, they looked quite different at night.
The concierge gave us instructions on finding a pedestrian mall with lots of bars and restaurants. We managed to miss the mall but got to see other parts of town before asking a cab driver where the mall was. He just looked at us then pointed “straight ahead”. Oh, right, there it was! There were many places to choose from and we selected a Spanish restaurant which was excellent. We chatted with the owner for a few minutes after dinner. He was from Spain and had got involved in importing products from Spain. He decided to open a restaurant next door and seemed to be doing very well. Sunday
Sunday, we cabbed to the Ancient Culture Street which officially opened in 1984. Not exactly ancient by most standards but does contain replicas of the old days. It is still an interesting walk. We ate lunch at a booth
The Astor Hotel Lobby
This mosaic behind the main check-in desk was impressive.
where the literal translation of the name is “Dog doesn’t care”. We weren’t sure what was in the meat buns but Thomas told us the original inventor of the buns was named “Dog” and he got so busy making them that regulars thought he was ignoring them or “Dog didn’t care”. We liked that explanation more than other ones that came to mind.
We visited the Catholic Church across the Hai River that had been destroyed by mobs in 1870 and in 1900 and rebuilt each time only to be damaged again by an earthquake in 1976. It has been restored again but we weren’t able to get inside. The people on site we very interested in talking to us but couldn’t help us find someone with a key to let us in.
We managed to get around in the ancient street area using the motorcycle cabs that have replaced the rickshaws. We thought regular cab drivers were slightly crazy. These motorcycle guys don’t follow any rules. Their bikes don’t have much power to maneuvre, especially with three passengers, but they weave in and out where ever they see a break. Going the wrong way on a street
The bedroom was the nicest we have had on all our trips.
is no problem. We survived. Even the airport trip was fun
When it was finally time to head for home, we determined that we could drop Thomas at the Qinggui station and then go to the airport. The driver was absolutely impressed with Thomas’ beard. They spent the whole time it took to get to the station discussing the beard in Chinese. Once Thomas left the cab, the driver spent the next 10 minutes talking over his shoulder to us about how much he liked it. Thomas told us he was full of information about the city and a great ambassador for Tianjin.
As we neared the airport, he almost came unglued. When we were turning off onto the last access to the airport (I think), he started shouting "Bu hao (not good!)" and pointing straight up the road. A cab was coming toward us on the wrong side of the road! The driver had presumably missed his turn and was making an unusual corrective maneuvre. He followed us around the cloverleaf to the airport. Quite the excitement. When our driver dropped us at the terminal, he made some more comments about Thomas’ beard.
Looking the other way
It was so nice it merited two pictures!
home was short and our driver was there. Another short weekend, but full of fun. What’s next?
As I write this there are 54 calendar days until the end of the school year and 11 days after that until we leave for home. Most of you know we are returning to Canada after three great years in China.
But some of you might not have heard that we will only be stopping temporarily on Pender Island. Dianne has accepted a job as Principal at a small school in Williams Lake, B.C. until January when the Grade 6/7 teacher will take over. Dianne will continue as the Grade 6/7 teacher until they find a replacement. This is a great opportunity as we have never been to the Caribou region of B.C. and have always wanted to visit.
Our adventures will continue for at least another year. The WilsonsInChina
blog will morph into ToBeContinued
and we hope we have as much fun as we have had these past three years.
And now to start on the Hong Kong and Macau blog.... lots more great memories.
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