One Day in Tianjin
Tianjin is the largest coastal city in northern China and is a thirty minute ride on the high speed bullet train from Beijing South Railway Station which is completely modern having only opened in 2008.
The train travels at speeds of just over 300 kms/hr and departs and arrives precisely on time. It’s always interesting to see how fast the train is actually travelling with a digital reading in each carriage.
Once we arrived, we went straight to the Italian Concession area which is not far from the Tianjin Railway Station, for a bite to eat. The center of the main street, Xin Yi Street is the Macro Polo Square. Both sides of Xi Yi street are decorated with the usual Chinese lamps and trees and the buildings are so completely different from those in Beijing or other parts of China. The architecture is beautiful and probably the best preserved concession-era districts (European style buildings) that you will see in China of course along with Shanghai and Guangzhou.
In the Italian Concession are you can buy gelato, pizza, pasta and all things Italian. Most of the buildings in the area are restaurants and bars and they attract expats and the younger Chinese 24 hours a day.
Our next stop was to Ancient Culture Street, which is a pedestrian business street on the western bank of the Hai River. The architecture there was constructed in Qing Dynasty-style and the street itself was opened to the public in 1986. It was incredibly busy; not sure if that was because it was a Saturday but there are a lot of lovely shops to check out and lots of Chinese souvenirs to buy [which I did].
Our next stop was Jing Yuan (Jing Gardens) which were built in 1921 and were originally the private residence of a Chinese diplomat stationed in Japan.
Later the gardens were named by Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty in 1929 when he settled here with his wives.
We were trying to pack so much into one day as we were catching the train back to Beijing later in the same afternoon, so we continued with our sightseeing and the next stop was the very unusual ‘Porcelain House’.
Within a space of 3,000 square meters there are more than sixteen-thousand pieces of pottery, 300 white-marble carvings and 290 tons of natural crystals. All this is said to be shattered into 700 million pieces.
Porcelain House is now a museum. The old French-style building which was previously a bank, was decorated and refurnished by antique collector Zhang Lianzhi who in 2002, bought the home for 1 million RMB [about $216,000 AUD). Our guide informed us that the museum is regarded as one of the world’s fifteen most stunning museums which at the time I was not sure if true.. (it’s true – it’s located at http://www.huffingtonpost.com as one of the world’s most magnificent museums].
Our final stop was a walk along the Bohai Bay where we strolled through some old cobblestone streets and saw an opera in one of the homes.
Whilst I was walking around the old area, I was approached by a local Chinese reporter who wanted to interview me for a local Chinese news station. I said yes and gave an interview on my visit to Tianjin and the Chinese opera…it was very amusing!!
After this [and my fifteen minutes of fame] we drove to the train station and took the train back to Beijing…another great day out in China.