Around Beijing

Gubei Water Town     

We haven’t really been anywhere because I don’t get any holidays and when I do get holidays so does the rest of China…

As we discovered in our one trip out of the city up to now. Still, we got to see the Great Wall (which is great) and a fake old town (which was fake). So we went to Gubei Water Town which is an aforementioned fake old town. It is certainly impressively done but very weird given the sheer weight of tourists there.

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We got a Didi which dropped us at the entrance to the town, (after a 3 hr traffic jam),  this is like a huge train station ticket hall but it’s to get into the town. After some queuing and confusion (we do a lot of that), we figured out that our guest house was in the nearby town where people actually live, which is about 3k away from fakesville. So backpacks up and wander around for a bit until a rip off local taxi got his mark. We make it to the guest house to be greeted by giving up our passports for inspection by the village committee while we settle into our room, AND WHAT A ROOM!

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We spent the next couple of days wandering around in a daze looking at the millions of people taking selfies and being the object of quite a bit of curiosity. the town had some shows at night (which don’t justify the $100 US we spent to get in, but hey, everyone loves a lantern.

We also went up the Wall, which was a big itch that I for one had to scratch. It’s big, it’s a wall. It’s knackering. The cable car gave Lorena vertigo and the wall gave Danny a heart attack. BUT LOOK AT THE PHOTOS! We also realized why they were selling lots of bit of red wood with ribbons through, so you could write down a prayer then tie it to the railings near the wall.

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Tianjin

Tianjin was our first chance to do two firsts, visit another Chinese city and get to travel on the famous Chinese railway. And neither disappointed in fact Tianjin exceeded expectations and the trains matched my high expectations.

err….

We took one of the LOADS of bullet trains that leave from the massive Beijing South station. Buying the ticket was super easy on WeChat but picking it up was not, I arrived an hour so before the train left and we only made it because a kind ticket guard took pity on us and took us to the right place. So the moral of the story, get there bloody early next time. Anyway we (the Brits) invented the train, so ha! Oh hang on a minute, so why are the Chinese trains with a population of gazillions about two thousand times better than British trains? They are faster, run on time, cost a lot less (120KM journey on a BULLET Train is about $7!), cleaner and have free hot water for your flask. Could it be by any chance that they are government run?

Anyway, enough of silly old me. The outbound journey took 40 minutes on the bullet train travelling at 300Km an hour at one point (Tommy saw the speedo he said) and on the return leg we got the slow train, which took an 1 hour and 45 minutes and cost $3 a pop.

Tianjin is like an American city in that it has lots of old European buildings from its days as a European concession port mixed in with modern China high rises, see what I mean? American. We got a studio apartment at $50 a night which is a lot cheaper than Beijing, the kids wanted to move in because it had a big telly and a decent shower and me and Lorena weren’t far behind.

So what do you do when it freezing cold and you’re in a nice warm studio apartment with views of the city? That’s right. Watch telly. We did venture out as well…to the cinema… and the mall(s) and yes, we went outside. Long enough to take photos, walk between malls and go to a church so we could say we saw a sight.

Tianjin is fun for a weekend in the sense that it’s not utterly overwhelmingly massive so you can walk around the town centre, which is something Beijing doesn’t have. By the way, when I say it’s not massive, it has a population of 12 million, so it is definitely relative.

We did manage a trip to to see Venom and it was notable for being entertaining and really well-behaved (the rest of the audience not Venom). The place was packed and after living in the UAE for so long my heart sank as I mentally prepared myself for two hours of phones going off and what not.  Sharing a cinema with lots of other people is a great insight into how people think and while I did have a bit of a man-struggle with the armrest with the fella sat next to me (I gave up in the end) there was no noise pollution.

The cinema was in one of those weird spaces that I’ve only seen here that are not quite a mall and not quite a cinema but a 7-odd storey indoor market meets massive food court meets 14-screen cinema. So after the film it was down a floor or two for an all you can eat buffet with insects thrown in (the edible kind) followed by a very public zombie kill VR game that saw me and the boys making a noisy impression and raising a few laughs.

Then it was more mall action (it really was bloody cold) and more grub, this time from Yunnan. This was followed by an escape room experience for the boys (at a very reasonable cost) which they thoroughly enjoyed followed by a bit of karaoke booth action.

I’m sure there will be another Tianjin installment, as it is so close to Beijing and so easy to like, next time with a few less malls I hope.