Tianjin Port, July 2009. How can I ever forget the modest city of Tianjin, the first stop of my great Chinese road trip in 2009? Tianjin isn’t the most exciting place in China, but it did provide a gentle, hassle-free start to an amazing four-week adventure. This photo was taken on our first day as we wandered aimlessly around the pretty port. In fact, I think it may have been the first time I was stopped by Chinese tourists and asked if they could have their photo taken with me. Little did I know it, but the novelty would rapidly wear off.
Ancient Culture Street, July 2009. There were barely a handful of sights to check out in Tianjin and this traditional shopping street is probably the biggest draw. Take your time to saunter through the craft shops, sculpture stalls and upmarket lantern boutiques. There’s a sizeable temple too, while all the surrounding buildings are Qing replicas, with blue-bricked facades and ornate, painted windows.
Random Restaurant, July 2009. When I stumbled into this side street restaurant in search of lunch I had my first “Whoa, I really am in China!” moment. With its sparse décor, huge Chairman Mao painting and gnarled old men with their shrarrey farmer’s accents, there could be no doubt that I was a long way from home Toto. It was here that I ate my first fānqié chǎo dàn, a mouth-watering concoction of tomato, egg and rice drowned in a rich ginger soy sauce.
Porcelain House, July 2009. This kooky museum, also known as China House, is a contemporary centre for pottery and antiques. Originally an old colonial building, the entire structure was remodelled using broken porcelain parts by eccentric museum founder Zhang Lianzhi. You can wander around inside for 60RMB.
Zhonxing Park, July 2009. This small but pretty park is a good place for observing Tianjin locals going about their daily lives. On the day of my visit there was a collection of old ladies performing elaborate stretching exercises while gossiping mothers kept half an eye on their children as they frolicked around a large fountain. For more on my adventures in Tianjin, take a look at my short story Give Me Money!