As I stepped out of the train station, I could barely believe my eyes. Sky scrappers and European style architecture greeted me welcome to a city of 15 million people which I had never heard of before in my life: Tianjin.
And to say that the only reason why I came to Tianjin was to score a cheaper flight to Chengdu, I was still quite glad I came.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t even remotely thinking about going to Tianjin, but a month before going on holiday, I saw that prices from Changchun to Chengdu were obscenely expensive, while prices from Tianjin were quite on the cheap. Including the train fare and a two-night stay at a hotel would cost me the same as a flight from Changchun to Chengdu. So it was a no-brainer of a decision, I would go check out a new city!
Europe in China
Tianjin is located in the northeastern part of China, barely a short 2-hour drive from Beijing. The city has an amazing European influence to it, as Tianjin used to serve as a port of entry for exports from Europe.
Which also means that the opportunities to splurge on western food are plenty! French, German and Italian restaurants abound, especially in the Italian Style Town and its various European-style eateries, ranging from the reasonably priced to the excessively expensive (one of the restaurants charged ¥880 for a steak (about $135 USD)!!!! SPOILER ALERT: There is not much really ITALIAN about the Italian Style Town other than its name; even though the area does have many European-type restaurants, there are just as many American and German-themed eateries to choose from. But still, it was a nice change from the constant overwhelming of Chinese food.
There is also a beautiful residential area with various architectural styles from France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Walking through the streets of what the locals call the Five Great Avenues (Wu Da Dao) made me realize how much time I have now spent in China, as the simple sight of these houses was enough to wow me. About 10 months ago while travelling across Europe, I wouldn’t have given these houses the time of day…..but now, they made me snap some pretty useless pictures of them….
Tianjin is crossed by various canals and rivers throughout the city, and coming across bridges and water at various points throughout the city is not uncommon. It even gives Tianjin somewhat of a particular charm that not many Chinese cities have; especially during winter when the lakes are frozen.
We made our way along the Tzu-ya River all the way to the Tianjin Eye (another Ferris Wheel….. it seems like every city has one nowadays). Through the stroll, we came across many people skating on the frozen waters of the lake, while others simply walked from one side of the river to the other, and others even sat down ice-fishing in the icy waters of the lake.
Wanting to get a closer look at the Tianjin Eye, I decided to cross the river KNOWING that bad luck always follows me….. I was almost on the other end of the lake, when suddenly a heard a CRACK! on the ice….. nothing happened, but my eyes opened quite wide and I remained frozen for a second, not sure whether I should move or not…… I was just two steps from the edge, so I just jumped onto it and swore never again to even stare at a frozen lake in my life again.
Guwenhua Jie (Guwenhua street) is Tianjin’s culture street. Filled with merchants selling anything from colorful souvenirs to Chinese New Year decorations, it is a fun place to hang out in a warm afternoon. Merchants and markets line up both sides of this pedestrian street selling somewhat overpriced local products and souvenirs. A tank lies on one of the entrances for quite a good photo opportunity.
If you like pretty structures, or if you’re a bookworm yourself, then you must absolutely go to the Binhai library! It is one of the prettiest structures in the world!
Actually I didn’t go….I wanted to, but I never got there thanks to a combined effort from both Google Maps and Apple Maps which both had the wrong address listed for this library.
Although the maps will tell you that the library is inside Tianjin, it is actually in Binhai. Line 9 of the railway can take you there from the center of Tianjin in approximately 2 hours.
Even though I didn’t get to go there, my friend did, and indeed, the library is everything you can expect and more!
Tianjin was an unexpected good time. From its European feel to its beautiful sights, it was definitely a city I wouldn’t have any problems returning to. What are your thoughts?