Tianjin: Tuesday, Nov. 11 – Part 1

We woke up Tuesday morning with this view from our hotel room window.  I know that it doesn’t show much without a before comparison, but the air had been horrible the first two days we’d been in Tianjin and we’d only been able to see a handful of these buildings.  It was a clear day, perfect for all the “seeing” we had planned for Tianjin.

First up, the Tianjin Radio and TV Tower (very similar to the CCTV tower in Beijing). It was fun to go to the top and almost be able to see to the ocean.  Maybe on an even clearer day, the ocean would have been visible.  It’s 415 meters, so it’s actually 10 meters taller than the tower in Beijing. Inside it has pictures of other tall towers.  It was fun to see the Eiffel Tower (which I’ve been to), the Tokyo Tower (which I’ve been to), the CN Tower in Toronto (which B’s been to) and the John Hancock Center (which we’ve all been to).  Plus some other buildings we plan to see, like the Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

While up in the tower admiring the views it wasn’t Squirt and the other kids who drew a crowd, it was me.  Maybe they didn’t see the rest of the family, or maybe they just wanted a picture of the crazy foreigner with FOUR kids.  I had to spend a great deal of time while an older woman tried to take a picture of me with her husband on her cell phone camera.  I was trying hard not to crack up because she had the camera so low, it was obvious our heads weren’t going to make the picture.  Her husband just sort of shrugged and smiled at me after he saw what his wife had captured.  But then I had to have my picture taken with the wife and two of her friends.  Eventually they had me track down a kid for a picture, but the family was scattered about so I don’t think they ever ended up with a picture of all four kids, unless they were standing behind me while I took a picture (which happens a lot).

This was near a church we didn’t actually end up going in but it looks cool.

This was an area called Ancient Cultural Street full of lots of little vendors.

We then walked to Tianjin Nanshi Food Mall.  It has a McDonalds, and some other sit down style restaurants, but mostly it’s just people selling their food, or street foods, but off the street.  It’s a two story, mall-like building (although as far as we could tell, the 2nd story was closed).  I’d promised the kids we’d warm up on hot chocolate after the whole, Ancient Cultural Street plus a long walk, freezing part of the day.  We SLOWLY drank hot chocolate at a McDonald’s, even skimming the cooler part off the top with a straw.

We tried Jian Bing (which B’s students had told him was the street food he loves and described to them, it wasn’t, but we wanted to try Jian Bing now).

Part 2 coming soon to a new blog post.


Nanluoguxiang Hutong


To start, I’ll define hutong (pronounced: who-tong).  They are narrow streets/alleys, mostly in northern China and Beijing.  This one we visited was much more polished than the historic ones but still fun and filled with yummy food shops and other cute shops.  There is one in Beijing that is only about 14 inches wide at its narrowest point.  We plan to visit some more, make a unit out of it for school.

The purpose in visiting this specific hutong was in search of a stuffed animal Snowy (Tintin’s dog) in order to complete Squirt’s Halloween costume.  I read about Tintin and China online and found out that Tintin is pretty popular here, maybe because two off the comic books are set in China.  There is even a bar named the Lotus Blue (similar to one of the comics).  One of the blogs mentioned how easy it was to find Tintin stuff in China and they named this hutong as a spot to find memorabilia and another market as a place to shop for the books.  We started here and crossed our fingers.

We’ve seen women wearing these hats with antlers all over Beijing.

PS wanted a picture to show cousin Pickles.

There were at least two of these churro places, maybe three.

 A lot of the crowd had dispersed by the time I had my camera ready.


Success!  We’d gotten off line 6 at the Nanluoguxiang station and headed down the street.

At the end, it sort of tapered off rather than continuing straight so we turned left which seemed to have a few more shops than right.  I bought the kids juices/sodas and then we spotted this store filled only with stuffed animals.  I walked around slowly not wanting to miss Snowy.  I didn’t see him anywhere.  I’d loaded a Google search of Tintin and Snowy on my phone so I showed this to a clerk.  She walked to a specific location, moved some toys around and pulled our a Snowy!  Woo hoo! Squirt held it like this for several Chinese people wanting to take his picture too.  Made me smile.


PS bought dangly panda earrings and these mouse ear hair clips.

I think this is her favorite place in China so far.


This was in the subway station.  The kids thought it was hilarious.

It’s a stand alone wall segment with two doors.

PS showing off her mouse ears and panda earrings.

Beijing Zoo


The Beijing Zoo is actually really inexpensive and really huge.  We missed a lot of animals and will have to visit again.  To get in and see the pandas, it’s 20 yuan ($3.33)/person.  To get into the zoo, the panda exhibit and the aquarium is a much pricier ($23/person, I think).  We decided to save that for another day when the weather is bad and we want to be inside.

As a family we enjoy zoos and we knew we wanted to see pandas in China,* but everything I’d read about the zoo was that I’d feel bad for the animals, there weren’t enough zookeepers, the animal habitats weren’t great, the animals were unusually lethargic, etc.  So, going into this I had low exceptions and maybe that’s why it didn’t seem so bad. There did seem to be a lot of empty (without explanation cages, or maybe I just didn’t notice the signs because they were in Chinese).  And there did seem to be some over crowding in cages.  But the animals we did see were great and pretty active.  The monkeys were super fun and we spent a long time there watching them crawl, swing, jump and run all over their large cage.  There were bear cubs, a polar bear, some large cats, giraffes (what we’ll feed next time we come to the zoo), elephants, lemurs, etc.

Pandas in China.  Although they looked very old.
Blown candy and super tall, maned wolves.

Squirt wore a hat to the zoo.  He got less attention than the Temple of Heaven but still had his photo (our whole family’s photo) taken with a Chinese girl who asked nicely in English.

Overall we enjoyed the zoo and we’ll be sure to go back to see some of the animals we missed as well as to see the aquarium.

*There’s still a chance that we’ll travel to a panda sanctuary southwest of Beijing in a different province but that’ll be a bigger trip so we’re saving it for later.

The Temple of Heaven


After church we went to The Temple of Heaven.

The fame was fun for awhile but by the end of the day it got pretty old.  Squirt (and our large family) were a huge attraction and here it got to the point that we couldn’t stop moving without gathering a crowd taking our picture.  There were steps all over so B waited with Squirt while we looked inside the Hall of Prayer and then we switched.  While he was looking, we gathered a crowed.  Then we left and walked past a gift shop.  B waited outside while I looked around quickly.  When I came out I found not Squirt having his picture taken, but B posing with two friends who took turns having their picture taken with him.  Afterwards he joked that maybe they thought he was Drew Carey.  While he was having his picture taken, a woman nicely asked me in English if she could take a picture with my baby.  We continued on further and got the kids some ice cream.  While they ate sitting on a curb they gathered this crowd in the bottom right hand picture.  Some parents even pushed their Chinese children forward to stand by our kids for a picture.  It got old pretty fast.  I was surprised that in our way less western neighborhood we don’t attract swarms of photographers like we do at huge tourist attractions where there are other westerners aplenty.

Echo Wall (here)

Buddy (with the sun in his eyes) and the tallest building in Beijing.
Circular Mound Altar

from here

Heaven Heart Stone
Heaven Heart Stone, also known as Sun Stone, is one of most distinct, design-wise, in the Temple of Heaven. It is a round stone in the center of the altar which is slightly protruding. If you stand on it and shout or knock, the sound waves will be clearly echoed.  In ancient times, at the Worshiping Heaven Ceremony, the ritual officer would stand on the stone to read the oration and the clangorous sound seemed to be reaching to heaven.

Jingshan Park


Due to the craziness of the holiday (and having been told that travel would be extra crowded) we avoided subway line 1 and started our day on a bus to a different subway line.

Jingshan Park is a public park next to the Forbidden City.  It used to be an Imperial Garden.

Notice Little Guy photo bombing the picture of Buddy and I.
As you can see, bad air days make for not very good landscape pictures.

The center picture on the right is a crowd taking Squirt’s picture.  He was almost a bigger attraction than the attraction. We even had our entire family’s picture taken with various Chinese people.  And when we asked someone to take this family picture, lots of people were also taking our picture.


 We then walked from here (passing the Forbidden City) to Tiananmen Square stopping along the way to buy Chinese flags, Chinese flag heart stickers and dinner.

Walking past the Forbidden City.
We tried to get Little Guy to stand next to this woman in gold and black because they were about the same height.  And a family stopped us to take a picture of Buddy with their similarly aged son.
We had okay food at the top corner restaurant on the way to Tiananmen Square, B tried this “fruit pancake” which was neither fruit nor pancake and was gross, and Squirt loved the Chinese flag.

Famous Already

 On the way to our closest grocery store, there is a store called Happy Baby Store (we actually just found this out recently because everything is written in characters).  They have statues out front of the hunter and bear from Boonie Bears as well as some statues of Miffy (a cartoon PS really liked as a toddler).  After a few weeks of living here, Transformers showed up out front.  One day, while walking past a woman stopped me to ask if she could take pictures of the boys interacting with the statues.  She was a reporter for a local pape’s west side section, specifically our neighborhood.  She got my email address to send me copies of the pictures and then emailed me about an interview with me about having four kids in Beijing.  I agreed and a few weeks later she brought me a copy of the article with the picture of the boys and she interviewed me..  Really, it turns out she wanted to write about a working mom with 4 kids but then I informed her I didn’t work and she found out we homeschool our kids so she asked mostly about homeschooling.  She told me she’d mail me a copy after it was published.


 According to Google Translate, which you’ll see isn’t perfect or accurate: Happy Baby Store: Transformers, 5 meters high… and it is waiting for you to play with it. Then, under the picture it says: September 21, no. 40 Fuxing Rd. located on the bottom “happy baby child shop” before put up a five-meter square Ling-shaped diamond “shape, attracted children gathered to watch. Shops told reporters this, Transformers “is the night before the night came from the production factory pull, in order to give parents and children come to shop a surprise. This huge Transformers will be stations in the small square to the end of November. – Text and camera/ reporter, Wen Yan (aka Whitney, who interviewed me)