Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 1 - Beijing to Tianjin

Day 1 
We had to check out of Holiday Inn and head for Tianjin by 0800. I guess for most people, it was a bothersome task to wake up so early and ensure that they have all their belongings with them. However, for my group, Sheng Chieh (SC), Leon and I arranged to meet at 0630 for breakfast. Breakfast was not as luxurious as what I had when I was overseas. I was not expecting much from breakfast, but the others were rather disappointed. At least they had toast which suited me just fine. The guys had the traditional Chinese breakfast, i.e. rice, vegetables, meat etc. Even though I never tried their breakfast, I could tell, from their expressions, that could very well be our last breakfast from the hotel.

As expected, many were unable to stick to the meeting time, causing the whole team to wait for them. The teachers were rather upset but they did not express their unhappiness. I guess they could understand the difficulty of adapting to the early morning routine. After everything, we were on our way to Tianjin.

The ride was at least 4 hours and many took the opportunity to catch up on their sleep. That was when I realized a huge problem: light sleepers would be suffering. Try as I might, sleep just did not come.

Our first stop in Tianjin was lunch.
Getting off the bus

First stop, LUNCH!

Getting a place to sit

Dishes served
We tried the Tianjin delicacy: gou bu li pao zi. No pictures of the food, but it really had a unique taste to it. For me, it was a very very big pao. I could not even finish one on my own, and ended up sharing with the rest. The first lunch did not suit most of us so we ended up wasting a lot of food. After that. it was time to explore the streets.

I believe most of us, or even all of us, have seen and eaten molten candy (mai ya tang) at some point in time. I, too, have eaten in Singapore, but it was in the very standard rectangular shape. So I was rather intrigued when I saw the uncle making a masterpiece out of the candy. It was not an easy task since the candy would harden in a short period of time and no mistakes were allowed. But, the uncle was very skillful and many of us ended up watching him bring the molten candy to life with just a spoon.

Uncle and his "magic" spoon
Shayne and her molten candy

After that, we were back on the bus heading to the next destination to shop. The streets were packed with mountains of people of all ages and all nationalities. Street houses dominated both sides of the streets. It was like traveling back into the olden times.

Entrance of the shopping streets
What it really looks like beyond the entrance
Old man playing the Chinese flute
Goods along the side of the street
People painting on the street floor
We did not buy anything from there but it was an eye-opening experience. We saw many things that we would most likely not have the chance to see in Singapore. There was even a shop that produced different forms of signatures by just getting their names at RMB10. It was not the cost that mattered, rather, it was the way they went about doing it. The shop owner was very skilful in his calligraphy and drew many different types of signatures with his brushes. It was fascinating to just stand there and watch him, after all, how often do we see people who still uses brushes to write?

Next, to another shopping street. This street was different from the previous one. No vehicles were allowed on the streets, and rather than street houses, buildings stood high and mighty along the sides.

The name of the streets
The rare sign in China

Tall buildings

We managed to room the whole streets and ended up snacking along the "Food Street". They had all sorts of different food, ranging from satay sticks to chicken chop. Sheng Chieh bought chicken chop which was delicious and we all shared.  The guys bought a belt since they forgot to bring theirs.

After that, it was dinner time. And it was back to the hotel after that.

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