We have an amazing amount of travelling to do in the next 7 or 8 days and decided not to go into Beijing again today. We’ve opted to go into TianJin, it’s the nearest city from the port of Xingang, about 1 1/2 hr from the port.
Xingang is a rather recently developed port city which is considered part of the greater Tianjin area, one of China’s largest cities. Xingang is the closest major seaport to the overland route to Beijing, formerly Peking, the national capital of China which also boasts the country’s largest population. These cities all lie within the Hopeh Province (north of the river). In this case, that designation refers to its location north of the Yellow River. The province incorporates the Hopeh Plain which is bounded to the west the the T’ai-Hang Mountains, east by Po Hai and to the north by the Yen Mountains that slope gently from west to east. The Yen Mountain chain is zigzagged by the Great Wall of China along its peak along the border of the Mongolian Plateau. This province today is one of China’s most varied regions in terms of culture and folkloric traditions. Due to the surrounding mountainous areas, the cities in Hopeh Province are particularly dense in population. The late 19th century witnessed the discovery of rich coal deposits and oil fields. These have been the impetus for industrial growth in the region with the increased need for railroads leading the products to the commercial harbour of Tianjin and now Xingang. Tianjin soon became the primary industrial and commercial centre for northern China and second nationally only to that of Shanghai.
These 2 photos are of 1 construction site!
Building in China, particularly in Shanghai, Beijing, TinJian and Xingang the places we’ve been to is extraordinary. My perception about China was very wrong – I can’t believe the number of skyscrapers and tall commercial buildings. The architecture is beautiful with extreme attention to detail. Whole communities are built at once. The government are trying to get people into these high-rise apartments and they are demolishing the old worn down buildings. These are still present and as we toured these cities they are everywhere. Communities here are built as follows: 8-10 high-rise apartment blocks are built at one time along with medical and educational facilities. There’s shopping and community activities available and people are encouraged to exercise. We saw this in a living community where many of the residents exercise with Taichi or using ropes and pulleys and in the malls and shopping area, many stores just keep a skeleton staff on while the rest of the staff go on a walk about the mall in a single file. It’s really quite wonderful to watch.
In Tianjin today we met up with another Volendam couple. We were dropped off the shuttle at the local “Friendship Store” which has the usual Gucci, Prada etc stores. We’d seen “The Ancient Culture Road” on a map and took a taxi. We’d already asked one of the guides to translate the name of the street into Chinese so we could give it to the driver (few cab drivers speak any English). The cab ride for the 4 of us was $6 (20 minute ride) or 30 Yuan. The atmosphere was electric and the colours very vivid. It was so Chinese or what my perception was. Lots of little stores selling everything. With our new friends (Patty and Michael) we went shopping. Patty and I stopped in this little store (with the sliding back door to reveal all the handbags and purses one could ever want) and got down to business. Patty ended up with 4 purses and 6 wallets and a watch for her hubby. I ended up with 3 purses and a wallet along with two watches for himself. My bill came to 2560 Yuan or $530 Canadian dollars. I ended up after much negotiation paying 1020 Yuan or $210 Canadian dollars. I think I did very well. We think all the products were rejects from the plants as most of them still had the control stickers and prices from the stores. We checked them very carefully and we’re both VERY pleased with our purchases.
Later Gerrit and I went our own way to have lunch at a local restaurant. We took a couple of detours down some alley ways and ended up on a little side street with several mom and pop type rooms selling food. While Gert went to find us a seat outside the eatery on the sidewalk I went inside to see what we could eat. Everything was in Chinese and NO ONE spoke any type of English – HEAVEN! I pointed to the rice maker, sitting on the floor, and pointed to another man’s plates with meat on a bone (looked good). Somehow we managed to get 2 bowls of rice and a plate of meat with bones and a very large beer that we shared. The meal was just awesome, the beer refreshing and it cost us 14 Yuan or $2.50 Canadian for the lot. We’ve had great luck with these alley way eateries and we so enjoy eating with the locals, even though we’re stared at all the time. 🙂 We just look for a busy place, if it is busy with locals then it is probably good.
We found another wonderful array of stores and purchased some little trinkets for the kids back home (so I’ll not say here what we got). We had a wonderful time in Tianjin and made our way back to the shuttle pickup point in another taxi. This time the cab ride was just 20 Yuan or $4 Canadian dollars – go figure!!
After another exciting cab ride to the bus, we made our way back tot he ship. Nothing can adequately describe the driving technique required to get around. Cars and motorcycles meander from lane to lane all the time honking horns to get clearance to move forward.