Tianjin preserved and new

Using Tianjin preserved vegetable in Dan Dan Noodles the other evening reminded me of the lovely day we spent in that city while we were in China in late June, just before we travelled far inland to Xinjiang Province.
After nearly a week, the air quality in Beijing was getting to me and I had an overwhelming urge to see clear skies and get at least a whiff of fresh air. A bit of google-mapping and a trawl of our guidebooks suggested that the city Tianjin, about 140 km from Beijing on the edge of Hebei Province and close to the Yellow Sea, was our best option as it could be reached in half an hour by bullet train. So we set off alone on our first venture outside the city, taking a taxi to the metro, a metro to Beijing South station and a bullet train to Tianjin.
Getting hold of a train ticket as a “lao wei” (foreigner) is not for the fainthearted. Foreigners need a passport to buy a ticket so we couldn’t use the sophisticated electronic ticketing machines which require a Chinese ID card. Even in Beijing no English was spoken at the station so, despite having the destination written down in Chinese characters, it still took a phone call to Shan and handing the phone to the perplexed and cranky clerk to make sure we had return tickets for the correct time. Our return tickets cost 160 RMB or about €20 each
The bullet train is an incredible and enjoyable experience.  We travelled at a maximum speed of 300kph for the 30 minutes it took to get to Tianjin on a spotlessly clean, streamlined train to and from spanking new, state of the art stations resembling airport terminals.

285kph and still standing

The care and attention to cleanliness reminded me of the way my Dad used to wash his car and polish the hubcaps after every trip when I was growing up, so proud was he of his new acquisition.
“Now you wouldn’t want to be having a dirty train”

Tianjin Station

I loved Tianjin on sight, a bright airy city with the wide river Hai running through it and a palpable breeze off the sea. The sun even shone for us there.
As you exit the train station you are greeted with a cacophony of bristling new architecture rising up behind the old concession buildings.
The view from the station concourse at Tianjin

Marking time – mechanically

Tianjin is an important part of China’s economic engine. It is one of four municipalities directly controlled by central government. It’s the sixth largest city in China and estimates for the population of the municipality vary from 13 million to 42 million. Like many Chinese cities I suspect it is growing daily.
It may now be a modern city but it has a long history. It’s position near Beijing and its port location on the Grand Canal made it the economic hub of north China as far back as the early part of the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911). The Treaty of Tientsin opened the city to British and French concessions in 1858 and others followed giving it that European architecture redolent of Shanghai. More recently it has been subject to waves of investment and a massive face-lift. It plays host to the Summer Davos Forum which has been on there in recent days (11th September 2012). Continue reading Tianjin preserved and new