On Dry Land Again
Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
195Trip End Feb 28, 2013
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Where I stayed
What I did
Shi Family Mansion
Antique Market Street
Tianjin Population: 42 million!
In Tanggu we walked off the boat through customs and immigration in a flash. This port of entry is not very busy. Taxi drivers acosted us as soon as we exited the building and yelled after us that the buses are all broken. Then we crossed the big and mostly empty parking lot to the bus stop on the main road in front of the port building to catch the bus into Tianjin. We had gotten the lady at the ship's information desk to write instructions in Chinese. The bus was waiting and there were plenty of seats. We passed a beautifully groomed pedestrian walkway along the water front with planters and wildly imaginative buildings, artwork and venues.
Outside, the suburbs blended into each other, attractive high rises sprouting up like mushrooms and new building projects were in process everywhere we looked. The old hutongs and cement block apartment buildings torn down and replaced by wider roads, high rises and up-scale department stores. Our ride turned out to take 2.5hrs. The 50 kilometer journey cost just 7.5 RMB each total (about $1.15) The bus ended at the Tianjin main train station. There we could have hopped on bus 5 to take us closer to our hotel but we figured the taxi would be cheap and easy.
Dave had booked the LP recommended hotel on orangehotels.com.cn. The site is in Chinese so it was a bit dicey guessing what the booking steps were. But with google translate, we had a confirmed booking at 25% off the rack rate! On arrival, the smiling staff of the contempory hotel was a bit confused by our reservation until they figured out Dave had booked the wrong day. Our reservation began the following day. He also had booked a single room with just a small bed. No worries. They gave us a double at the internet rate. We were happy. The room had no window but was great. The darkness allowed us to sleep like babies. The AC blew arctic air.
We are amazed at the huge skyscrapers and how life has changed for the Chinese people, not just since we visited in the 1990's but also since our last short visit in 2006. The newly built huge apartment towers actually have some charm with different heights and stylish rooflines a much more pleasant sight than the cement blocks from a few years back. I'm sure we don't have to go far off the beaten track to find "the old China" again though. Everyone has cell phones like in Japan and are engrossed by them, not paying attention to anything else.
Our computer blacked out again. We have been having an intermittent problem with the display going out when we grabbed the left side to move it. And we could cause the fail by pushing on it next to the touch pad. We would reboot and the display would work fine again. But this time nothing worked. We did not bother replacing the computer in the USA because we were going to China! 90 percent of the world's PC's are made there, aren't they? They must be cheap as dirt here. NO WAY! With the devaluation of the dollar, and high taxes, they run 30 to 40% more than at home. A big gap even with negotiations. An off-brand low end local model is more than China made name brands are in the States. Apple is really popular and the Chinese are snapping authentic Apple products at a nice premium. It was great fun to explore the electronics mall. But except for common connectors and the like, these markets are no longer a bargain. And it is getting harder to find the cheaply made copies.
After we got a call that computer was ready, we taxied over and with one push next to the touch pad, the display went bonkers. Next day we went back again and they explained we had a difficult problem and the sure way to repair it was to replace the motherboard at 1000 RMB. Again we said 'okay' and were told it would be ready by end of business the next day, if the replacement motherboard arrived in time. The next day the motherboard was confirmed to be unavailable for another two days, at best. We wanted to move on from Tianjin and decided to pick the computer up without the repair. But we arrived and were given stall tactics. Finally we walked to the repair station to find the computer completely disassembled on on the bench. They had their best guy looking at it. They wanted another two hours to try another fix. We said okay and this time, he put the motherboard in a fixture and applied a heater to one of the components. The solder reflowed, and 'voila', where ever the bad connection was, it wasn't there now. This fix worked and we couldn't make the computer fail again. We will keep the computer backed up and keep an eye out for a replacement computer, just in case.
Antique town is a kilometer from the Orange and the traditional style buildings there are a sharp contrast to modern Tianjin. Michelle found a shop with a back room full of knock-off fake products. The little daypack she decided on wasn't in the hidden room but it was interesting to confirm this stuff is still going on.
Food Street is worth just one visit. Dozens of restaurants and snack shops are enclosed in the two story mall. There are loads of stalls with knick-knackery too. Chinese tour groups were filing through behind their flag toting guides. We took a few minutes to watch the Sugarman make a lion shaped candy.
We had the hotel clerk tell us how to take the bus to the Shi Family Residence located outside of Tianjin in the suburb of Yangliuqing. He said we could not take a bus all the way. We would need to take a bus 623 all the way to is end and, from there, a short taxi ride. LP has bus instructions from the center of town but we erroneously believed our hotel clerk knew the best way from his hotel.
At the Shi Residence, the ticket office lady sold us tickets and directed us to the entry gate. We walked around to the entry gate and the same lady was there to punch our tickets, like she had never seen us before! It was not busy and there were only a handful of Chinese tourists.
The Shi family was one of Tianjin's eight grand families in the end of Qing dynasty. Shi was rich and depended on shipping. He settled down in Yangliuqing in Emperor Qianlong of Qing dynasty then bought lots of fields and became a big landlord. In 1823, the Shi family divided into four parts. This residence is the fourth part. 'Shi Family Residence' was built in 1875. It consists of several courtyards, 278 rooms and a theater.
We saw enough to get a good idea of how life must have been for the Shi's and the peasants who supported the lifestyle.