Feb 1, 2009


During the Spring Festival week long holiday, we did a day trip to Tianjin. One thing that Tianjin is notable for is that it was home to a bunch of concession territories (租界, wikipedia map).

These days, there's not a whole lot to see in Tianjin, but it's a good place to go for the day and eat at some of the local restaurants. It makes me think of the movie In Bruges: it's a great day trip, but it wouldn't be fun to have to reside there for any significant amount of time.

The last time I went to Tianjin, it took almost ninety minutes on the train. However, with the new bullet train, which supposedly travels at 200 plus mph, you get there in about thirty minutes. The ride was so silky smooth, you could probably pee standing up without even holding onto the lavatory walls. Of course, the trip is very short, there's no need to even use the restroom. In fact, my cup of coffee I bought in Beijing south rail station was still warm and drinkable by the time we got to Tianjin.

One of the local snacks is a fried dough twist called a mahua. I'm not a big fan of them, but we bought some anyway. The traditional mahua flavors are things like sesame, rock sugar, ginger, or osmanthus.

Knowing this information ahead of time, I of course had to do the smart aleck routine with the sales clerk, a fifty-something, rather serious-looking woman:
"Do you have chocolate flavored mahua?", I asked her with a straight face.

"No, just sesame and the other ones you see here", she replied.

"Well, do you have vanilla flavored mahua?", I asked.

"No, not here. We just have these flavors", she answered as she pointed to the display case.

"What about cinnamon flavor?"

The sales clerk was getting a little annoyed with me. "That's a different brand. We only have these flavors here."
Then she turned her back to me to ring up another customer's purchases. With that I moved on. Sometimes I get this urge to pretend I'm Ali G doing an interview, and I can't help myself.

In conclusion, if you're in Beijing for an extended period, I'd highly recommend a day trip to Tianjin. The pace of life is noticeably slower than in Beijing. If your language skills are reasonable, you'll notice that the locals talk just a little funny, but not so funny that you can't understand them (sort of like Ohio). Tianjin's cars give pedestrians a few extra seconds to cross the street before they run them down like dogs. The bullet train is a nice novelty. And of course, Tianjin has some great food, if you know where to go.


Blogger Mark said...

That is too funny! I used to pull stunts like that when I was in China too. Like when they asked me for some money using the word "mao", I would act confused and point to Mao Ze Dong on the bills and say, oh do you mean this Mao? Either they would get a kick out of it or pissed off. But loved to have fun with them...

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