Sunday, July 8, 2007

It's the end of a fun weekend in Tianjin. Scott and I had originally planned to take the train to visit a section of the Great Wall located a couple of hours outside of Tianjin, but it didn't work out so we decided to spend the weekend exploring our home base.

Friday after class we played a little bit of tennis. Just as we were leaving, a Chinese student (his English name is Jackle) asked us to join in a doubles match with him and a friend. Between rallies, Jackle and I chatted a bit: I discovered he has a sister in Minnesota and he's visited Miami, which he called a "tropical paradise."

Later, Scott and I headed to Goubili, a restaurant famous for its dumplings. Goubili looks like a four star hotel: it even has a red carpet entry-way. The dumplings were a bit pricey, but they certainly lived up to my expectations! Dumplings are my favorite Chinese food so far. I've encountered two kinds, both delicious: baozi are steamed, large dough puffs filled with meat (usually pork); jiaozi are smaller, shaped like little burritos and are best when fried. I need to watch my dumpling consumption though... not exactly a healthy food choice!

After dinner we went to Cozy's Cafe in search of student drink specials. The rumored "special" turned out to be a 20% discount. I'm surprised at how expensive mixed drinks are in China; they cost considerably more than drinks in a college town bar: usually about $7 or $8 apiece. Anyway, Cozy's was fun because of the ghetto rap music they played... it reminded me of driving down Tennessee Street in Tallahassee!

Saturday was spent exploring. We walked about 45 minutes from campus to the Tianjin TV Tower and rode the elevator to the top (1197 feet) to check out the view. Then we enjoyed Cokes ("kele" in Chinese) inside the rotating restaurant near the top. After a semi-Western lunch at Hank's Sports Bar and Grill, we got on the bus (a ride costs 1.5 yuan, or about $0.20) to see what else we could discover. We walked around Tianjin University, a beautiful campus with elaborate fountains for several blocks inside the entrance, and went into a few of the mammoth shopping malls that seem to be everywhere in the city. After dinner and a movie at TFSU, we were beat.

Sunday was another adventuresome day. First we visited Cultural Street, which consists of several blocks of vendors and stalls selling upscale souveniers such as Chinese paintings, jade, pearls, swords, calligraphy sets, and so forth. I like Cultural Street particularly because the vendors aren't pushy; you are free to look at the merchandise without being harassed. This is a rare treat in Tianjin. Even in Century Mart or a Western-style mall, the moment I enter a store, the workers aggressively try to convince me to buy the most expensive items.

We walked along the river for a little while and enjoyed the attractive Romanesque- style bridges, reminiscent of those along the Seine River. However, this was definitely NOT a stroll through Paris... the sight of a man relieving himself in plain view beside the river, dozens of people fishing on the banks, and one man taking a leisurely swim through the gray, murky water to the other side shot that illusion right out the window.

Lo and behold, we spotted a Wal-Mart! Like flies drawn to the light (or American students drawn to the big yellow smiley face) we wandered in. Tianjin's Wal-Mart featured many familiar American brands as well as many odd-looking Chinese items. Watch out for falling prices! A couple of shopping malls later, we headed back to TFSU.

I really enjoyed my time out the the city; it gets easier every time I go out. But after a whole weekend of trekking through traffic, honking horns, smog, and staring hordes of people, I'm taking some much-needed huddle/ recovery time tonight in my dorm room.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i found a new grocery store near where i'm living in virginia. it's called SUPER! H-mart. I was excited because the Giant Supermarket near my house is not up to par, so I walked in and much to my surprise, the entire store was stocked with asian food. With Chinese/Korean/Japanese characters on all the lables. Nothing was in English. And everyone was staring at me. I shuffled out of there as soon as I could get through the foreign goods to the exit.