Tianjin: Wednesday, Nov. 12

Finishing up in Tianjin.

The kids got ahold of my phone and took a lot of crazy pictures.  We woke, dressed, packed and went to the train station to buy tickets (to avoid a 5 hour wait).  I was unnessessary this time, we could have hopped on a train in 20 minutes but our luggage was at the hotel.  We ate breakfast at the train station McDonald’s (Egg McMuffins minus the cheese for some reason).  Tickets in hand, we headed back to the hotel, finished packing, double-checked that we’d left nothing behind and checked out.

Orange Juice machine in our mall.  We finally had a 10 yuan note and tried it out.  Pretty good.
Waiting for the train back to Beijing.

Tianjin: Tuesday, Nov. 11 – Part 2

Th main attractions we wanted to see in Tianjin were the Tianjin Tower (for the view) and the Tianjin Eye (for the view and because ferris wheels seem exciting and fun).  We also wanted to do a river cruise at night (for the view) but it was pretty cold so we opted to skip that on this trip.

After the Nanshi Food Mall, we walked across town (not too far) to the Tianjin Eye.  On the way we passed people launching lanterns like in the Disney movie Tangled but we were set on the ferris wheel, so we kept going.

The air wasn’t bad.  I think he was keeping his nose warm.

It was a cold night.  The outside part of the line was only about 25 minutes and then another 15-20 minutes inside.  Once you are in your “car,” it’s a 30 minute trip around the wheel.  Our car was our family plus one young Chinese guy.

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.

Tianjin: Monday, Nov. 10

We requested two connected rooms at the Tianjin Aqua City (area of town/mall) Holiday Inn. We ended up with two rooms (1 King sized bed per room) across the hall from each other.  We put the three big kids in one bed (they all fit decently) and B and I took the larger room with a couch and a bench for Squirt’s bed.  Our hotel was connected to a mall and in the basement of the mall was a subway stop.

Monday we woke up and went to the McDonald’s in the mall for breakfast.  It was too late for breakfast (and we found out later in the trip that it didn’t matter because this mall McDonald’s didn’t serve breakfast ever) so the kids (and B) elected to have Chicken McNuggets, etc. for breakfast.

Our hotel from across the street.

An adorable street sweeper.

The air was horrible on Monday.  I don’t remember exactly what the number was, but it was above 200 which is “very unhealthy.”  This had us a bit worried because we’d planned to walk around town a lot and a lot of what we wanted to do in Tianjin depended on seeing views.

We started at Gulou N Street and walked toward the Drum Tower and then down Gulou S Street.

To illustrate how poor the air was.


The caution signs for drivers in China are great and Buddy already loved signs.  In Beijing, we aren’t really on any of the big streets that have these signs unless we are on a bus so we haven’t had a chance to get very man pictures.  In Tianjin we saw a lot.

Tianjin has an Italian Style Town. All that really looked different to us was the cobblestone street and the naked, marble statues.  Apparently, as a coastal town, Tianjin, in the 1880-1900s was the port of Beijing, so westerners trading with China had a lot of turn of the century, European architecture and history (similar to Shanghai).

We walked to a Walmart (B wanted to look for a better map of Tianjin) and learned that our Walmart is ghetto compared to this one in Tianjin.  Then we walked to a giant, outdoor mall (and fancy indoor mall) on Heping Rd. and walked past the St. Regis hotel which looked pretty cool.

Off this mall strip was a food alley.  A bunch of people jumped in front of us in the churro line so we walked to the end of the street and back.  Being a coastal city, there were a lot of fried squid on a stick options.  There were also these aebleskiver looking balls.  We bought a pack of them before I saw the guy making them put a bit of raw looking bacon in each one before flipping it over.  We were feeling adventurous, but I was wary of that raw looking bacon so I ate a small, not through the middle bite.  It was okay, but hot, and a little doughy in the middle.  We ended up trashing them and getting churros.  Later, we looked it up on the internet and found out those are squid balls and westerners find them thoroughly disgusting.  Glad we didn’t bite right into them!

After the food alley, we spotted a cool looking church (St. Joseph’s Cathedral or Lao Xikai Catholic Church), walked to it, found a Paris Baguette (my favorite of the Chinese/French bakeries), got a snack and headed to Five Great Avenues, where five streets intersect.

We headed back to our hotel and wandered over to the attached mall for dinner.  Outside the fancier restaurants in Chinese malls, at the host/hostess podium, there is usually a picture menu.  The food at this particular restaurant looked good so we went there.  After being seated in a shower-themed area, we looked at the tables near us (toilet-themed) and realized our restaurant had some sort of bathroom theme happening.  Complete with poop-filled bowls under the clear glass tables at the toilet booths.

A Vacation: Tianjin, China

APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) had their huge meeting in Beijing this year. Everything shut down. It was like Golden Week all over again. The government wanted air pollution and traffic to be at a minimum so they shut a bunch of stuff down for a week. This included B’s school. He had off November 7-12 (but had to work a Saturday and a Sunday to make up for some of it). Initially, we were thinking of traveling to Chengdu to see the pandas in a panda preserve there, but the longer we took to decide (overnight train vs. flying, etc.) the more expensive it was getting, so instead we decided to take a mini vacation to Tianjin, just 37 minutes away via high speed train. We booked a hotel for a few nights and the next day we found out the Young Women’s Girls Camp was going to be while we were gone. Luckily, since we’d decided against Chengdu, all we had to do was cancel the reservations and make them again for the second half of the APEC holiday. Princess Sparkley went to camp Thursday night (to the leader’s house), then to the Great Wall Friday and home late late Saturday night.* Sunday we left for Tianjin.

We’d read online that the high speed train (at least to Tianjin) is easy as far as buying tickets goes because they leave every thirty minutes or so meaning there is no need for advance purchase. We didn’t take into account APEC week traveling and needing 5 tickets (Squirt is free) on the same train. We bought our tickets and then had FIVE hours to kill at the Beijing South Train Station.

We started at Pizza Hut (which, so far in Beijing has always been a nice, sit down restaurant with a rather extensive (not just pizza) menu. Squirt and I took pictures. We all explored the train station a bit next. Squirt liked going in the various stores. The kids played their Kindles. We created a spectacle with our giant family. And finally… FINALLY, we boarded our train and 37 minutes later we were in Tianjin. I wish we had a high speed train to church!

Did I mention my camera died? Not that it was great, but my cell phone doesn’t always do a good job either (see below).

Having gone through security twice (Beijing subways have medal detectors and then the train station security), Buddy had wondered if all the restaurants and shops in the train station had to put their food and products through security. On one of Squirt and my walks around the station, we saw it happening.





*The subway ride from the leader’s apartment was going to be about an hour and a half. PS was supposed to get dropped off at 9pm and the subway shuts down between 11 and 11:40pm. She didn’t get dropped off until after 10 due to getting lost, dropping other girls off, and getting stopped twice on the drive from the Great Wall and being required to show their passports (extra security due to APEC). She and B got home close to midnight just making the last train.