The Heavenly Ford of China – Tianjin (天津)

Like many Chinese cities, Tianjin (meaning “Heavenly Ford” – named by Emperor YongLe) is another exceptional historically rich place to visit. She was once occupied by 9 great nations before the founding of modern China. Today, Tianjin bears marks of her past invaders (Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Japan and Belgium). There are a lot of European buildings scattered (and well-conserved) in the city, giving Tianjin an unique “European-Oriental” feel.

July is possibly the worst time of the year to visit Tianjin. Weather is extremely hot, hazy and humid. This is Tianjin’s hottest and wettest month. Still, I managed to cover some of its major attractions outside my working hours on Sunday and late Monday afternoon. Not bad for a short 48-hour business trip. It is good that I have the good company of Kelly and Desmond. Poor them – I dragged them for a speedy “touch-&-go” tour with me.

Here are my Top 5 Favorite City Moments in Tianjin:

NUMBER 1 – THE PORCELAIN HOUSE
Located in the “5 Great Avenues” – Built over 5 years and decorated with about 400 million pieces of ancient Chinese ceramic chips and over 13,000 ancient Chinese porcelain vases, plates and bowls, the Porcelain House is an uncanny Ceramic Museum. The owner (Zhang Lianzhi) took over 20 years to collect the porcelains and more than 5 years to decorated the building. This massive and expensive project cost the owner more than USD65 million. The owner owns 2 “Porcelain” buildings – 1 museum and 1 restaurant. (Entry Fee: RMB35/adult. Address: No.72 Chifeng Avenue, Heping District Tianjin 300041)


NUMBER 2 –
TIANJIN TROPICAL INDOOR BOTANICAL GARDEN (天津热带植物观光园)

Covering 3,000 acres, this is Asia’s largest indoor botanical garden. It houses over 100,000 species of plants from tropical and subtropical regions. Despite the hot 34-degree weather, I found it pleasantly cooling strolling inside this giant greenhouse. Beautiful landscaping with big man-made waterfall, lakes, caves and a mini Mayan Pyramid. (Entry fee: RMB50/adult. Address: 300 m North of Bridge, West Outer Ring Line7, Xiqing District Tianjin 300384)


NUMBER 3 –
SUNSET AT TIANJIN HAI RIVER (天津海河)
The night view over Hai River is calm and beautiful at night. At Jiefang Bridge, we saw many people sitting on the concrete river bank enjoying the cooling sunset. Traveling on the cab along the river, we saw many different bridges – from old to modern. Here, you will find the world’s 4th largest 120m tall Ferris Wheel, “Tianjin Eye” (or the largest Ferris Wheel ever built on a bridge).


NUMBER 4 –
DRUM TOWER OLD STREETS (鼓楼东街)
The Drum Tower is situated in the center of the ancient town where 4 old Chinese streets (north, south, east and west) meet. It is like taking a walk in an old Chinese town. Except this is a tourist place where we find lots of shops selling typical local handicrafts and souvenirs.


NUMBER 5 –
 BINJIANG SHOPPING STREET – SHOPPING AND DINING (滨江路购物街)

Like most “Bu Xing Jie” (步行街) in China, this is the busiest pedestrian-shopping-street in Tianjin. Long buzzing streets lined with tall shopping malls on both sides. (Feels very much like the Nanjing Bu Xing Jie in Shanghai or Beijing). Here, we found the main shop of the world’s famous Tianjin “Goubuli Buns – 狗不理包子“!



The bun has an interesting product story.
If you translate the name literally, it means “Dog Ignore Bun”. The word “Dog (狗)” doesn’t mean the animal but the actual name of the chef who made these buns. His dad (a farmer) named him “Baby Dog” for safety and good blessing. Dog came to Tianjin at the age of 14 and started his apprenticeship at a local steam food shop. He was so good in his cooking skills that he started his first shop in 1858.  It was said that when Dog was making the buns, he was so engrossed in the process that he was not responsive to anyone. His customers gave him the nickname “Dog Ignore (狗不理)”. When General Yuan Shikai was training his troops in Tianjin, he offered Dog’s buns to Empress Dowager Cixi. She fell in love with the buns and praised “The bun is tastier than any beasts in the forest, birds in the sky, lambs on the plains and fish in the ocean!” From then on, Goubuli Buns (狗不理包子) became a well-known brand in China.

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