PWD Register

Metropolitan, ocean-side Tianjin blends all the culture, architecture and history of Beijing with the friendly atmosphere and reasonable prices of a smaller township. However, with a population of over 5 million residents, Tianjin can hardly be called "small"; in fact, Tianjin's urban area is the third largest in the country.

Located on the Bohai Gulf just north of the Grand Canal, Tianjin boasts beautiful seascape and riverside views. Swamps and moors along the coastline gradually fade into low hills and mountains farther inland. Spring and autumn seasons are dry with occasional cycles of strong, gusty wind storms. Tianjin winter is similar to that of Beijing - cold and dry - and summers are hot and humid with torrential downpours occurring through the latter half of July and early August.  

While all edifices built since 1946 have been constructed by the Chinese and are styled accordingly, Tianjin still bears more than a few architectural remnants of the French, British and German concessions that preceded that date. The city itself is quite flat with broad boulevards that give the impression of being wider than they are. The skyline, with the exception of downtown and the business district, is low and clear, and the Hai River that flows through the city is dotted with tugboats and small yachts.

Tianjin dialect is a distinct offshoot of the Beijing dialect. Anyone who has learned standard Mandarin (putonghua) will have no trouble understanding the Tianjiners' softer sibilance.

Public transportation is widely available in Tianjin. The city's bus system was first created in 1904, making Tianjin the first Chinese city to have its own bus network. Tianjin also boasts a fair subway system with a total of 22 stops with more on the way thanks to the municipal government's current metro-extension plans. The The Tianjin-Binhai Light Railway runs from downtown to the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Zone (TEDA), with several stops along the route. Taxi rides start at RMB8.

The Western expatriate population is not nearly as large as in some other major Chinese cities, but they have done much to form a genuine community. Events, such as traditional holiday potlucks, College Nights, billiard tournaments, and family get-togethers are organized regularly. Many Western expats have made their homes in the prosperous TEDA suburb, which offers its own supermarkets, shopping malls and restaurants. The Korean expatriate community, on the other hand, is huge, and enterprises from convenience stores to shopping malls sport signs in the Korean alphabet to serve the local need. Another pleasant result of this phenomenon is the terrific selection of excellent Korean restaurants.

As far as dining options go, seafood lovers delight in the numerous opportunities to indulge in such fresh water and saltwater goodies as fish, shrimp, scallops, mussels, eel and turtle. Local and national flavors abound (see our Tianjin restaurant listings for details). Those seeking an international environment, familiar food, and English-speaking company should swing by Hank's Sports Bar and Grill, a foreign-run watering hole frequently packed with Tianjin expatriates looking for a good beer and a good time. On any given night, a good chunk of Tianjin's foreign college student population can be found at the infamous Alibaba's, snacking on cheap eats and indulging in the cheapest beers in the city. Other restaurants offer French, Italian, Brazilian, Japanese, and German food.

After a hearty meal, diners may want to work off those extra calories at the new rock climbing wall at Olympic Garden, on ice at the Isetan Skating Rink, hiking the Great Wall at Huang Ya Guan, or at any one of Tianjin's numerous fitness clubs and bowling alleys.

Families with school-aged children will find modern facilities and certified Western curriculums at the Teda International School, Tianjin International School and Tianjin Rego International School. Macaroni and cheese, Campbell's soups, spaghetti sauce, and any number of imported dry good and produce favorites can be purchased at the local Walmart, METRO, and Carrefour supermarket branches. Other supermarkets selling Western groceries include the Friendship Store and Good Luck Supermarket on the corner of Qixiangtai Lu and Weijin Nan Lu.
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