Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hangin in Tianjin

Welcome along everybody, help yourself to the tea and scones. Now, before we get started on today's agenda, two pieces of housekeeping:

1. Blogger is blocked again for those of you keeping score

2. I decided to do away with the obnoxiously large images. Unfortunately, the next step down for Flickr is kind of small. You can click on them to embiggen.

So, as fun as it was last time, I vowed that I was not going to spend the entirety of the May Holiday in Beijing drinking and gorging myself on non-Chinese food. The tricky part however, is that when I get time off, so do a billion odd Chinese. This makes travel difficult, crowded and expensive. What I did manage to wrangle though, was a day in sunny Tianjin, about 2 hours (by rickety bus) East of Beijing, on the Bohai Gulf.

Its a nice town, sitting on the Hai He river, and famous for its boazi, which we ate at one of the more famous restaurants, Goubuli (狗不理). The locally brewed beer was crap and the food took forever to arrive (despite constant hectoring by my Chinese speaking friend) but was pretty good. The '100 year old beef' was particularly tasty.

Various foreign interests barged in after the Chinese were 'convinced' to open Tianjin to international trade during the opium wars, so there's a bunch of very non-Chinesey architecture around:


Church and statue

Though of course that's rapidly being overshadowed by that most Chinese of constructions, large clumps of high rise apartments:



And yeah, that's a tank. Not sure why its there, just a subtle reminder I guess.

We were mostly in Tianjin to check out the markets, which come in two flavours - The hutongs, where you can buy all manner of bric a brac, rusty old communist paraphernalia, and 20 year old Motorola cellphones. (We were lucky enough to walk through just after a very leaky bitumen truck had passed.)

Tianjin Hutong

and the ironically(?) named 'Old China Street' where you can buy all manner of bric a brac, shiny new communist paraphernalia, and 20 minute old Motorola cellphones (probably).

Paul and Meg, Market Street

(Can you guess which of the people in that photo I was traveling with?). In both places you need to haggle hard (which I have zero talent for) but at least in the hutongs they seem to have more of a sense of humour about it. If you offer the old toothless guy 10% of what he wants for the rusty tin 'Victory over Japan' pin, he'll laugh at you (and maybe agree); the stern lady selling the fancy 'Ethnic Minority Crafts' will throw you out of the store.

To round up, here's Paul, Sarah and Me, I think Paul was explaining how they wouldn't let him use the public toilet.

Paul, Sarah, and Me.

and here's a lady with a one legged frog on her shoulder

One legged frog thing

Exciting announcement tomorrow, with pictures! Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Tianjin is where I am heading in August(hopefully) to study for a year. It seems quite cool and it's not that far from Beijing(well on the fast train I think it's just over an hour) so I think it has the best of both worlds. I didn't realise that Tianjin had hutongs as well, that's cool. I'm guessing that they will still be there when most of Beijing's have been torn down for the Olympics/progress.

Ben said...

I think the fast train makes it much less than an hour. I heard 20 minutes somewhere but that may not be true.

The hutongs aren't quite as hutongy as the Beijing ones, and they're still very much in danger of being torn down and built over, so get in while you can.

Anonymous said...

Whatever it is, in the grand scheme of China it's not very long at all. I think 20 minutes maybe if they have a maglef but I doubt that will happen for ages.

The "hutongs"/nontangs(i think that's what they are called when they are not hutongs) still sound good.