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The Stunning Adventures "Not all those who wander are lost." Tolkien

Tianjin, China

CHINA | Friday, 22 June 2007 | Views [4778] | Comments [1]

Tianjin Antique Market

Tianjin Antique Market

After our quick journey of less than 60 minutes, and pretty much a brief peek at rural China, we arrived in Tianjin. Up, over, down and out of the station into the hands of more taxi drivers. Immediately we attracted several who were vying for our attention. The two of us shuffled off, out of the way, and opened our very helpful guide book. We also wanted to get ourselves some grounding. The taxi drivers made their way over to both of us and began to look over our shoulder and discuss, in Mandarin, where they think we were trying to go--pointing, talking, looking at us in the eye for some sort of clarification. Unfortunately, we were completely incapable of giving them that. One of the gentlemen was taller than the rest, and very much reminded Elizabeth of a drunken (this aspect of the assessment was not so much because of the dishevelled look and red eyes, as it was the boozey smell wafting off of him) Chinese, Benicio del Toro from the Usual Suspects. He seemed like a nice enough, and somewhat charming fellow, aside from the early afternoon drunkenness, but common sense tells her that he is not the best choice for the ride. Eventually, through the use of the phrase section and the map, the destination of the Tianjin International Hostel (which is located on the University campus) is agreed upon and universally understood. We clarify that we want to use the meter--we didn't want the Tanggu experience again-we opt for a driver who is bright eyed and bushy tailed, complete with colorful, intricate tattooes up and down both arms. What a ride, what a ride. Seriously, this has to be up there as far as one of the most nail-biting taxi rides we have experienced yet. Also, many Chinese taxis have "cages" in the rear, we guess to keep there passengers locked in and incapable of escape. No, blinker/indicator, speeding up in front of vehicles to careen around them, into on-coming traffic, back into the lane...slamming on the breaks! Ahhh...the cage, that hurt. Back into our seats. Greg says "Hmm...maybe we will be walking a lot" (fortunately for us, Beijing has a good subway system and despite what we were told, we were able to figure out some of the public bus routes). Finally, we made our way into the university grounds. We thanked our enthusiastic driver and headed into a very beautiful campus full of lovely red brick buildings that reminded us of buildings you would find on a variety of US campuses, and a couple of large lotus ponds--spotted with large leafy pads and huge, blooming, pink lotus flowers. There were also charming little tree lined lanes used by both vehicles and a multitude of bicycle riders. With the help of two students (one of them a Korean gentlemen who noticed the lost look on our faces, and told his Chinese friend, who apparently spoke better English,--"They look like they just got to China, you should help them."--Lovely! We always embrace anyone who wants to help us) we found our way to the hostel, well one that was full, then one that could facilitate us. We settled in, headed out for some baozi--bread filled with meat like hom bow, and returned to our hostel. We both decided it's necessary to learn some mandatory Mandarin so we studied some simple phrases/vocab and learned our numbers before turning in for the evening. As our time went on (and will continue to go on in China), this proved to be a very wise decision.

In the morning, we leisurely walked to an antique market where all kinds of things were up for sale--a lot of communist paraphanelia (pins, medals, "the little red book" written by Mao--we were told,(we are pretty sure most of these were originals--dusty, wrinkled, water stained, and torn; we saw many fakes in Beijing--pristine and glowing white, hot off the presses), old Chinese comics (about 30-40 years old), little snuff bottles, ceramics, old photos, and not for sale, the bare-bellied bicycle riders. The bare-bellied bicycle riders are/were such an entertaining lot; most of them very warm and smiling, just curious about us, and about what is going on in their neck of the woods, really. Almost everytime we stopped and started to discuss the price of something, or expressed interest in possibly purchasing something from a vendor, the bare-bellied bicycle riders would slowly circle-round. I should mention that they are bare-bellied because of the heat and many Chinese men will simply flip up their shirts to expose their bellies and thus cool themselves down a bit. Also, some of these men just simply don't wear shirts at all. Both of us thought this would have been a lovely option but probably not a good idea--for either one of us ;) When observing, they didn't say anything, just seemed to take in whatever was happening. This experience has repeated itself on many occasions on our travels so far. So, after a good walk and look-see, we had purchased a few small items (yes, one of them being the "little red book"--too interesting to pass up)and decided we were pretty hungry. So, we ventured on to see what we could find.

Not far from the little market, we turned a corner and passed a little hole in the wall restaurant. Elizabeth glanced in, and saw a little, elderly, Chinese woman, nibbling on some delectable looking dumplings. Looks, good, "What d'ya say, Greg?"...guide book, chicken? pork?...how do you say??? We were curious about what these little dumplings might be filled with, pretty sure it would be nothing strange, but also wanted to acclimate ourselves and get to know some more words and phrases, so we took a look in our book. One of us said "chicken" out loud, and immediately, the little woman inside, perked her ears, lifted her head, and said "Chicken?" in English, and looked at us. She got up from her table and walked down to the sidewalk and said "I am sorry that my English is so poor, but if you would like me too, I can try to help you." "Oh, thank you! You're English is great--WAY better than our Mandarin. Thank you so much" Elizabeth and Greg responded; words all happily jumbled together. We pointed to some dishes (by now one of the girls that worked at the little establishment had come down to the stoop to see what was going on) and the woman said "pig", another dish, the woman spoke to the girl..."This one, they do not have." We think, no problem. By now we have been standing/talking about 3 minutes, so we have accrued 4 or 5 bare-bellied bicycle riders. "What about this one?" we asked, pointing to what looks like the baozi we had last night only they are smaller. The little woman replies"...oh this one?(she points to it), this one is Wonderrrful!"--SOLD!. We said "ok", and pointed to the two dishes we would like (of course including the "wonderful one"), we expressed our many thanks in English and Mandarin "Xie Xie". She smiled and headed out and chatted with the bare-bellied bicycle riders because they had many questions about our conversation. She pointed to the menu and seemed to be explaining the transaction, smiling and peppering the story with an English word from time to time "pig"..."chicken"..."wonderful". We hopped inside, and the meal was wonderful.

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, and evening and made our way back to our hostel. We woke up the following morning and headed to the train station to get ourselves some tickets for Beijing.

Tags: People




This is my hometown, I was born and raised here for 24 yrs till 2001 came to the States study, the scene were so familiar and people were described vividly, I could almost smell their seemingly drunken scent. It's part of the culture or custom what you might call it, we drink pretty much all day through, since late morning till late at night, but that doesn't mean they can't help, that's where they grew up. I haven't been back home since 2001, miss it a lot. But definitly enjoy the street vendor's food, those are made from scratch real deal!Mmmm!

  Xiao Dec 27, 2008 1:33 AM

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