Tianjin Journals

Pearl of the Bohai - Attractions

Best of IgoUgo

A travel journal to Tianjin by TianjinPaul

Tianjin Eye Photo, Tianjin, China More Photos
Quote: I have lived in Tianjin for over three years. This is my review of the tourist attractions in the city, many of which have undergone dramatic changes in the past years.

Xia Li

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When I first moved to Tianjin in 2006, I lived in a small town about 25km away from the city centre. To get to and from the city I could either take the rather dirty city bus or the ultra-sleek, but rather expensive new light-rail system. These were fine when I went into the city for work or for lunch. However, when I decided to head in for a night at the bar or to see friends, I was forced to return by taxi – the buses and the train ceased to operate around 10pm. The trip back through the darkened outskirts of the city in a Tianjin Xia Li taxi was never anything less than terrifying and I would always feel deeply relieved to reach home in one piece.The Tianjin Xia Li was a small hatch-ba...Read More

Spring Festival Fireworks

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The image I had of Spring Festival – or Chinese New Year as I knew it before I moved to the Middle Kingdom – was off dramatic fireworks displays and acrobats dressed in flamboyant dragon costume's. I enjoyed Spring Festival like this in 2008 in Beijing. My buddy Ossie and I were en-route to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia and had stopped off in the capital to catch our flight and to grab a few beers in the process. We sat upstairs in Rickshaw – a tremendously popular expat bar in Sanliturn – and watched one of the most spectacular fireworks displays I have ever seen. There were giant bright explosions filling the skies above every district in the city. We could look down to the pavement on Sanliturn Lu and w...Read More

Tomb Sweeping Day

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If I am honest, the fundamental meaning behind Tomb Sweeping Day was lost on me for much of my time in China. I had heard Chinese friends and colleagues talk about it from time-to-time. They mentioned that they sometimes went back to their hometown or to their family's traditional burial plot to sweep the tombs and to remember their ancestors. Aside from that, though, I never paid it too much attention. However, in 2009, the government changed the National Holiday schedule to make Tomb Sweeping Day a three-day holiday. As a consequence, I figured I ought to learn a little more about it.My girlfriend informed me that most Chinese did indeed head back to their home-towns or villages – if tim...Read More

Tianjin Botanical Garden

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Attraction | "Bizarrely Botanical"

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I will preface this article by explaining that before our trip to the Tianjin Tropical Botanical Garden, my girlfriend had informed me that we were going to a "garden", completely omitting any reference to anything remotely tropical. Therefore, dressed in a heavy sweater and long-sleeved t-shirt to fend off the final parting shots of the Tianjin winter, I was sweating profusely for the duration of our visit. However, this discomfort notwithstanding, the Tropical Garden was a fun, albeit slightly bizarre experience.The trip took a surreal tinge as soon as we drew up outside the main entrance and found our path inside blocked by a large group of newly married – or possibly soon to be married...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 1, 2010

The (Not So) Golden Weeks

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For those of you unfamiliar with Chinese National Holidays, the Golden Weeks are three week-long holidays given to almost all workers in China. These take place at Spring Festival – which changes dependent on the lunar calendar – May 1st and October 1st, which is the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. During these periods, most government workers, almost all office workers and anyone involved in education are given time-off. The only groups who do not take large chunks of time off are retail staff and those involved in delivering essential public services – doctors, police, transport workers. With so many people getting time off at once, the country descends into near chaos...Read More

The Silk Road Comes to Tianjin

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History and politics in China are scarcely ever objective subjects. This is particularly true of twentieth century Chinese history. Whilst the likes of Qin Shi Huang and Confucius tend to escape being labelled imperialists or reactionaries, anything in the past century is fair game for inflammation and hyperbole. A trip to the Tianjin Museum is certainly evidence of this. Phrases like ' treacherous imperialists' and 'heroic martyr' are used as though they were a key part of the standard lexicon of historians rather than the buzz words of lazy propagandists. With such overbearing language employed to illustrate some the regular exhibits in the museum, I was wary of the storm of hyperbole th...Read More

Gan Bei!

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My knowledge of the Chinese term Gan Bei began in my first month in Tianjin. I had arrived in the city to teach at a school in the Dong Li area of the city. Dong Li is not the nicest area of the city. It is largely industrial and has not experienced the type of modernisation the rest of the city has undergone. Back in 2006, things were even more basic. Because of this, my Canadian colleague and I rarely ventured out of the apartment in the evening. The school's driver, a rather lively chap named Mr Su, decided that this would not do. So, he invited himself to our apartment for Tuesday evening drinks.He arrived carrying five bottles of Snow – the cheapest and nastiest of China's domesticall...Read More

Rehabilitating Tofu

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Let's begin this journal entry by establishing one thing, I am no fan of Tofu. In fact, for the most part, I absolutely hate the stuff. My hatred goes back a long way. It starts when I was eighteen when I was working as a sailor in the US. The boat upon which I was crewing – more specifically the organisation that owned it - had strong liberal views. As a consequence, the galley was a meat free zone. This meant that we were treated to several tofu stews and even grilled tofu 'steak'. It is safe to say that I was less than convinced on the virtues of tofu.The hatred continued, in fact it intensified, when I moved to Asia. When I worked as a teacher in Korea, my school were keen for me to tr...Read More

Romance of the Rails

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My relationship with Chinese trains began in 2006 as my buddy Os and I backpacked our way around northern and central China. During this period it was a relationship defined by my sense of wonder and awe. The idea of winding and dragging our way in to the mysterious Chinese interior had truly captured my imagination. During those two months, we indulged this fascination almost religiously and allowed it to take us to big cities and remote little corners of the country. We took in 12 and 14 hour journeys to Xia'an, Shanghai and Nanjing and even lasted the 19 hours it took to reach Yinchuan in deepest Ningxia. I loved the train. The pace of travel was slow and relaxed, the views through the ...Read More

The Day the Rains Came

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As I stared out of my office window, I saw the raining coming down heavily and bouncing on the street. In truth, this was not too unusual. Rain in northern China tends to come either torrentially or not at all. My only major concern was that it would be difficult to get a cab home. Tianjin taxi drivers are renowned for not liking to drive in the rain and not picking up passengers for fear of getting their seats wet. However, a few hours later, when I stepped outside, I saw that this was no ordinary downpour and finding a cab was the least of my concerns. The city was experiencing the tail-end of a typhoon that centred somewhere in the South China Sea close to Taiwan. As a consequence, the volume of ra...Read More

Buy Now

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Attraction | "Tianjin's Cyber Heaven"

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I was on business in Shanghai. It was Friday evening and I was keen to get back to Tianjin to spend the weekend partly with my girlfriend and partly ensconced in the confines of Ali Babas, the best bar in Tianjin. I packed all my stuff quickly, left the office and headed to the airport. It was only after I landed in Tianjin and unpacked my bags that I realized that I had left the power cord for my laptop in Shanghai.With little chance or recovering it from Shanghai, I sought out a HP dealer in Tianjin to see if I could get a replacement. The extremely helpful lady behind the encounter assured me that it would be no problem, they didn't have one in stock, but could have one to me in less th...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 28, 2010

Maigoo

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Attraction | "The Best Shopping in Tianjin...Still"

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As a fully-fledged red-blooded Yorkshireman, I am no great fan of parting with my money unless I feel I completely, totally and utterly convinced that I am getting a bargain. For this reason, I always enjoyed shopping in China. Simply put, it was far cheaper than anywhere else I had ever been!However, this may be something of an over-simplification of the situation. I first arrived in China in 2006. At that time, Tianjin was dominated by either Chinese owned department stores selling Chinese brands and stores selling super cheap locally made clothes or fake western brands. Some big western names were sneaking in – such as sportswear giants like Nike and Addidas – but overall things were st...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 28, 2010

Health and Safety - Chinese Style

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China has seen its share of death and tragedy over the past decade. First there was the SARS epidemic. The death toll of which was estimated by the government ti be in the hundreds, but most probably extended far higher. There have also been floods in the south caused by typhoons in the South China Sea. And, of course, there were the two earthquakes - the first in Sichuan, the second on the elevated plains of Qinghai. However, there is one tragedy that cannot be seen as one single seismic event, but, instead, as a continuous process of suffering - accidents and death in the workplace.During the first decade of the twenty-first century, accidents in the workplace accounted for at least 5,00...Read More
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This is the story of how my friend Ossie and I - possibly - became the marketing face of a Shandong based beer company. The events in question took place at the Tianjin beer festival, where we consumed a frightening amount and an impressive variety of Chinese beer. They culminated with me half on my couch and half face down on my living room floor. Therefore, my recollections are a little hazy.Things began with us sitting on shaky plastic tools around a rickety picnic table tucking into bottles of Tsingtao and enjoying a few plates of various snacks. Away to our left was a giant stage with a team of dancing girls strutting their stuff to some impossibly loud dance music. For a while, this ...Read More

Tianjin Aircraft Carrier

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Attraction | "A Cold War Relic"

The Silo Photo, Tianjin, China
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must admit that I have a guilty historical pleasure. I have a bizarre obsession with all things Communist and the history of the Cold War. I am not 100% sure how this started, but I would hazard a guess that it began to incubate when I sat on the sofa with my mum and dad watching pictures of the Berlin Wall fall. This obsession has defined the non-fiction section of my book collection and even drove two or three of my choices when I selected modules to study at university.It is one of my great regrets that by the time I was old enough to travel independently, most of the post-Communist regions of Eastern Europe were well on the way to modernity and were becoming chic destinations for Brit...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 9, 2010

Battling Bureaucracy

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It was a Wednesday evening and I had been working late. I arrived home to my high-rise apartment block at around 9.30 in the evening. As I walked across the marble floor of the lobby, I noticed a migrant worker – who was probably working on one of the many construction sites close by – seemingly sat in the corner. In itself, this was a pretty strange sight. He rally should not have been inside a finished apartment block. However, as I looked closer, I was completely appalled. He was not sitting or resting, he was going to the bathroom. Sadly, there was no bathroom involved, just the floor. For a few seconds, I stood there open mouthed. Then, I wandered outside in search of the security guard who was p...Read More

Closing Loopholes

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For years, a loophole existed within Chinese visa law that allowed foreigners to stay in the country on an F Business Visa, rather than apply for a Z Visa Work Permit. Foreigners were supposed to leave the country after staying for six months on an F Visa. However, thousands simply stayed and got a new F Visa in China taking advantage of quirks in the law and less than honest visa officers. This was extremely popular as the process of getting the work permit was long and wrapped in layers of red tape. Taking advantage of the loophole was relatively simple. One option for Laowais (The Chinese term for foreigners) was to send their passports to visa offices in different cities – my company sent mine to ...Read More

CBA not NBA

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I heard the words "court side seats" and my head was suddenly turned. I had images of being just feet away from the action, of being close enough to the court to be splashed by Kobe Bryant's sweat. This was my reaction when my girlfriend told me that we could get tickets to see Tianjin Rongcheng play Xinjiang for just 60rmb and for that price we would be on the very front row. Of course, it was the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) rather than the NBA, but it would still be pretty cool, right? Sadly, the answer to that question would be a resounding "no".Excited by the coup of snaring such fantastic seats, we arrived at the Tianjin Municipal Gymnasium thirty minutes before the tip off. ...Read More

Tian Lun Jin Bin Rega Hotel

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Hotel | "Setting over Service"

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There are many things to like about the Tian Lun Jin Bin hotel. First off, it has one of the most convenient locations in Tianjin – the junction of Anshan Dao and Wei Jin Lu. This makes it convenient for the university area, which is home to several cheap bars and restaurants, and ensures it is close to the CBD area on Nanjing Lu. It is also very well decorated and looks every inch a four star hotel. It is also much cheaper than some of the alternatives that are close by – a room is 400rmb per night, half what you might expect to pay at the hotel Nikko or Sheraton.The problem with the Tian Lun is that whilst it may look the part, it certainly does not offer the type of service you would ex...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on April 3, 2010

Tianjin Museum

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Attraction | "Three Floors of Nothing"

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As museums go, the Tianjin museum is one of the most architecturally dramatic I have ever seen. Sadly, it is also one of the emptiest and least satisfying I have ever visited. The main building is made up of a giant semi-circular glass building that looks like something that has warped its way straight out of a science-fiction movie. In the evening, when the lights form inside filter out through the metallic supports it looks genuinely spectacular. Inside, it appears to be nothing but space – none of the exhibits seem to come close to actually filling the place.There are three floors to the building. The first floor, which is by far the largest, houses a rather mundane souvenir store, a cl...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 3, 2010

My Little Corner of China

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The junction of Hua Long Dao and XInkai is a crossroads just outside the center of downtown Tianjin. It was also my home for three and a half years. During that period, I enjoyed some wonderful times and grew to genuinely feel at home. I also saw my surroundings change dramatically. As my little corner of China morphed, I could not help but feel that it was, actually, a microcosm of the country as a whole. As Hua Long Dao and Xinkai Lu changed, so did China.I arrived on Huan Long Dao on a hot afternoon in July 2006. One of overriding memories of my first few days there was that the place was unbelievably dusty. The sidewalk was neatly paved with freshly laid flagstones, but was verged by d...Read More

City of Contrasts

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I lived in Tianjin for almost four years. And, I must confess, I loved the place. It will always hold a place in my heart and I will always think of it as a second 'home'. This is perhaps a touch unusual, as it is not the most picturesque of China's cities. In fact, my friends in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou would often mock me for "voluntarily" living there. However, there was one thing about the place that I truly loved and could not shake, the fantastic contrasts.These contrasts were essentially between New China and Old China. Just to clarify, by "Old China" I certainly do not mean the lavish, traditional era of the Qing or Ming dynasties. Rather, I mean the more austere and comical...Read More
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I began life in China working at a middle school in a small industrial town around 45 minutes outside Tianjin. It was horrific. The town was filfthy and outrageously polluted. The small river that ran through it changed colour on a daily basis depending upon which waste the local factories pumped into it. And, the smog was so thick that, even though the temperature often went past 35 degrees and I am bald, I never needed sun-cream. In short, I would do anything I could to get out of town as much as possible. One of those things was to head to Beijing to play football with other expats. This was something I continued to do even after I moved to downtown Tianjin and did for much of the time I lived in C...Read More

Xikai Cathedral

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Attraction | "Pickled Onions?"

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Almost everyday for a year, I would pass Xikai Cathedral on my way to work. More often than not, I would be in too much of a hurry to stop and savor its beauty. On others, the weather would be either too cold or too hot for me to wish to linger outside for too long - Tianjin is a city of weather extremes, ten below in winter and 35 degrees in summer. However, once in a while I would stop to admire it and also to chuckle at the story behind why it is built.Before I recount this story, I must establish that the degrees of truth involved in various aspects are open to interpretation. It is accepted that the Cathedral was constructed in 1917. It is also widely accepted it was constructed to re...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 3, 2010

Xikai Cathedral
Bing Jiang Dao
Tianjin, China 300052
022-028-85568253

Haihe River

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A trip along the Haihe River can take many forms. During my four years in Tianjin, I have enjoyed Tianjin's major waterway in three distinct, but equally rewarding ways. However, it is also worth establishing that I have only been able to do this in the past year or so thanks to the renovation works that have made the Haihe a pleasant place to enjoy an afternoon stroll or cruise. Back in the dark days of 2006 or 2007, the river itself was dirty and the banks were somewhere you seek to spend as little time as possible.The first, and most intimate, way to enjoy the Haihe is to take a cruise. This can easily be done at many points along the river, including Ancient Culture Street, the Eye of ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 15, 2010

Jiefang Bridge

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Attraction | "Eiffel's Last Stand?"

Jiefang Bridge Photo, Tianjin, China
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Starting early in 2007, with the Olympics on the horizon, the city of Tianjin began the process of administering a much needed face-lift to its riverfront area. This involved three or four old Communist era bridges being hauled down and replaced with shiny new sweeping constructions that give the Haihe River a very futuristic feel. As, one by one, these new space age creations appeared and then opened to traffic, I began to wonder why the rather out-dated Jiefang Bridge remained. Several similarly rusty structures had given way to modernity, so why did this creaking relic remain? To me, it seemed little more than an eye-sore blighting the area outside the newly revamped train station. The situation di...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 2, 2010

Jiefang Bridge

Tianjin

Italian Style Town

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Attraction | "Rome on the Bohai"

Italian Style Town 1 Photo, Tianjin, China
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Taking a taxi over Bei'an Bridge and heading towards the Hebei and Hedong districts of the city, you pass the recently renovated Italian Style Town. The view is characterized by elegant villas built in the colonial era that would not seem out of place in Shanghai's concession areas or even it Italy itself. However, if you had taken the same taxi ride just three years ago, the scene would have been dramatically different, For several years, the whole Italian area of the city had been left to crumble amidst a cloud of dusty indifference. In 2006, when I first arrived in Tianjin, the local government had made the first tentative steps towards restoration by sprucing up a few facades and adding the odd ne...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 29, 2009

Tianjin Eye

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Attraction | "An Eye on to the City"

Tianjin Eye Photo, Tianjin, China
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Even though it is located in the far northern extremities of the city, the Eye of Tianjin dominates much of China's third largest municipality. The giant white ferris wheel does this in two distinct ways. First, its giant frame is visible from several kilometers away and sneaks into the panorama of many of the city's other major tourist attractions. Tourists enjoying the sights at Ancient Culture Street, Da Bei Temple, Italian Style Town and Bei'an Bridge can all get a fantastic view of the Eye. Second, as it is representative of the rejuvenation Tianjin has undergone in the past two or three years, its image is used liberally around the city. It is splashed across the arrivals hall of the train stati...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 29, 2009

Tianjin Eye
Above the Yongle Bridge
Tianjin, China

Ancient Culture Street

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Attraction | "Neither Ancient Nor Cultured"

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The name of this particular attraction is something of a misnomer as the whole place is neither all that ancient nor excessively cultured. If you ask any overly proud locals, they might tell you that Ancient Culture Street offers a taste of traditional local culture and typical Chinese architecture. However, if you were to ask any expats living in Tianjin or any slightly more pragmatic Tianjin ren, they are likely to tell you that even though Ancient Culture Street might make for a pleasant afternoon out, it is, overall, something of a disappointment.The architecture of Ancient Culture Street is designed to give the feel of a Chinese city street in the days of the Qin or Ming dynasty. To c...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 29, 2009

Ancient Culture Street
West Bank of the Haihe River
Nankai District, Tianjin 300010