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I had a lovely weekend in Tianjin, though I wouldn’t call the city a “must-see.” It offers a few fine sights so a weekend is certainly enough, but I really went because it’s the one place close by that I haven’t been to.
We arrived Friday night around quarter to nine. It was eas enough to find the taxi queue but finding an honest driver was another story. Since there’s a queue you get whom you get. Our driver first tried to get us to pay 200 rmb and forego the meter, but we have been around enough to know for whose advantage that would be. We had to go from Tianjin South station to right by the Tianjin Eye, the world’s largest Ferris wheel sitting on a bridge. It is quite a distance, but not a 160 rmb drive. On return it cost 60 rmb. (Even if there’s a night surcharge it’s not that high.)
Our first day we went to the Tianhao Temple, which is located in a nice Chinese Ancient Street with Qing dynasty architecture and lots of crafts and food stalls. If I worked for some Chinese tourism board here, I would launch a campaign to get higher quality, more unique offerings for prospective shoppers. That’s lacking in these venues which are pretty much the same from town to town.
We decided to walk to the Wudadao district where the French and British concession were in the 19th century. The walk took a few hours, but the day was nice and the conversation pleasant. If we wanted we could have hopped on the subway or a bus.
Along the way we saw the China House, which is known for the shards of pottery embedded in the concrete gates and walls. It’s gloriously tacky. Since the Lonely Planet said the interior wasn’t worth seeing, we decided not to spend the $10 or so going inside.
In Wudadao we found the new plaza, which is actually just a small shopping center encircling the track that Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame, designed. We later found the site of his home, but weren’t impressed with the new building they’ve erected there.
On Sunday I chose to go up in the Tianjin Eye, the world’s fourth tallest Ferris Wheel with two of my friends. Had I known the wait would be two and a half hours, I probably would have gone with the others to explore the city more. Anyway, eventually we got through the line and the view was breathtaking. We lucked out on getting a clear day. I wouldn’t bother going on a day with the usual pollution.
We stayed at the Tianjin Riverside Holiday Inn, which was a fine choice. The rooms are modern and well equipped. We had a few hiccups though they were all worked out. There were five of us, three women and a married couple. I booked the room for the three women with IHG Rewards points. The room was large enough for three according to the website. Our first night the third person was delayed due to work, but I confirmed with reception that we would be three and we’d need a third bed the next night. No problem.