What’s this holiday about?
On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was inaugurated. An official victory celebration and ceremony was held in Tiananmen Square. Mao Zedong raised the first national flag of China in person amid 300,000 soldiers and other people who were gathered at the square.
On October 1, there is a special flag raising ceremony. Tiananmen Square is decorated festively with flags and portraits. Exactly at sunrise uniformed troops march out to start the flag raising ceremony.
To watch the ceremony you’ll need to arrive early, expect crowds and tight security checks. The entire ceremony only lasts 3 minutes. Sometimes crowds are in the thousands.The government also sponsors fireworks displays and light shows in the city.
• Expect more popular places to be crowded
• Book tourist attractions early
• Transport will be very crowded in popular areas
• Be careful with your personal belongings, particularly in crowded areas
• Be mindful of your personal safety
What can you do in and around Tianjin?
If, like me, you are waving your friends off as they visit Seoul, Russia, America, the world during the October national week, you may be wondering, ‘What on earth am I going to do with a whole week off in Tianjin? How can I compete with those far-reaching, exotic destinations? What stories can I tell when they return?’
Well, wonder no more. I’m here to settle, or arouse your curiosity, to spark your interest, to share my hot tips on exactly how you can enjoy Tianjin and the surrounds this October.
Food glorious food…
Food is generally my number one love and so it will be hot tip number 1. If you’re sick of going to the same old restaurants, now is your time to get out and EXPLORE. Most restaurants will remain open for the holidays so now is as good a time as any to get out and try something new. Here are a few ideas:
• Street food! Check out the cheap and delicious food at Nankai University (next to Tianjin University)
• Hot Pot
– My personal favourite is HaiDiLao – Yingkoudau – a little more expensive but oh so worth it. Great service, terrific food, and you can watch one very talented individual make noodles at your table and pop them straight into the pot.
– For a cheaper version, there is always XiabuXiabu. They have stores all over Tianjin and you can’t beat it for cheap and tasty hot pot.
• Juk – Korean Food – Level 6, Tee Mall (nearby Riverside 66) – I had my doubts at first when my fabulous friend Chane told me about their porridge. However, I was apologising profusely after my first mouthful. Try the chicken and cheese porridge–you won’t regret it. You will find a plethora of other restaurants if you visit Tee Mall: walk around and see what else is on offer.
• Four Seasons Buffet Restaurant – bookings essential – 80RMB for as much as you can eat. If my foodie friend Taz is to be believed, this lunch is not to be missed. Treat yourself!
• Lake crab – my trusty PAs tell me that this is the time of year to be eating lake crab and you can pick it up relatively cheap at the markets (or sell a kidney and visit a seafood restaurant). Purchase at your friendly local market (early in the morning is best), steam, ENJOY.
Parks of Tianjin
In the words of John Snow, ‘Winter is coming’. Thus, we must all leave our apartments immediately and enjoy the sunshine and warmth while we still can! Pack a picnic, ride a bike, take some photos, and show your family how beautiful Tianjin can be.
Here is a shortlist of parks that come highly recommended:
• Tianta Tower – there’s only a small park down the bottom of the tower, but you can pay 50RMB to visit the top of the tower for glorious views of the city. According to PA Lilya, ‘It’s just like the Empire State Building, only cheaper’.
• Water Park – rent a boat, watch the locals dancing and rollerblading, visit the mini theme park, break free from city life.
• Beining Park, Nancuiping Park & Changhong Park – check them out for ancient buildings and pagodas and relax amongst the greenery.
Tianjin Grand Theatre
For something a little different check out what’s on at the Tianjin Grand Theatre. During the October national week you can experience Portuguese Jazz and traditional Chinese music, or view live screenings from the British National Theatre. Watch Benedict Cumberbatch take on “Frankenstein”; and Harry Potter (ok ok… Daniel Radcliffe) deconstruct Shakespeare in “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead”.
If you haven’t seen this already, Joy City, Nankai, has a fantastic array of workshops. Get your creative juices flowing with modelling, painting, drawing, leatherwork, metal work, jewellery making, cooking, ice cream making – whatever inspires you. For more information on what you can create, click here.
Go and see a movie
You could of course sit in your beanbag and watch a movie on TV, but can you beat the big screen for the full cinematic experience? Visit your local theatre and see what’s on. I can also recommend visiting the special cinema at WeLife by TJ5, massive screen and you can feel the sound (closest subway Yuanyangguojizhongxin). You can book tickets early on WeChat to try and save a penny or two. While it’s all in Chinese steps are provided the steps below.
After all this you should be sent a confirmation via SMS. You can also buy tickets at the cinema, but it may be more expensive.
Galaxy Mall – YouYi Lu
Visit Galaxy Mall for a shopping and eating (Pizza Bianca) adventure, and while you’re there, sample some of Tianjin’s museums and galleries (you may need your passport for entry). Visit this site for more information. Here is a few top picks:
• Tianjin Museum – Cultural and historical relics significant to Tianjin.
• Science and Technology museum – 318 exhibits combining fun and education through modern, computer enhanced interactive displays. A 300-seat planetarium enjoys star status with visitors for its 360-degree movie theatre.
• Natural History Museum (a little further away, but the same side of town) – The exhibits emphasize themes of earth and life, and display a variety of species and zoology, the unity between life and the surroundings, and the harmony between human being and nature.
• Art gallery – A collection of modern and contemporary art work.
Don’t forget, while it may be a little more crowded than usual (人山人海 – people mountain, people sea), Beijing is just a hop, skip and a jump away (or 30minutes on the bullet train).
• Visit Sanlitun if you need a western fix. Eat, drink and shop until your heart’s content.
• Peking Opera – this is nearing the top of my list, because, when in Rome. Huguang Guild Hall is one of the ‘four great theatres in China’ and has nightly performances. Bookings can be made online.
• China Open – if you’re a fan of tennis, the China Open is on in Beijing from 24 September until 8 October. Tickets can be booked online.
• Beijing 798 Art Zone, or the Dashanzi Art District – the exhibition centre of Chinese culture and art, and the world-famous cultural and creative industries centralized area.
“798 stands for much more than a three digit number: in Beijing these numbers symbolize the country’s cutting edge art movement led by the Chinese vanguard, unchained artistic personalities with alternative life goals. The largest, most influential art district in China – the 798 – hosts world-class international and Chinese exhibitions in the midst of former weapons factories.”
Just 15 minutes away on the bullet train, you can rome (pun intended) the streets and canals of this replica Italian village and enjoy European architecture, delicious restaurants and China’s very own Colosseum. If it tickles your fancy, this is also the home of designer outlet stores where you may or may not be able to snatch up a bargain.
Travel a little further afield
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and want to brave the national holiday crowds, here are a couple of suggestions that are not too far away. If you don’t go on the holidays, definitely take a couple of weekends to visit them.
Hanging Monastery by Datong
Hanging Monastery stands at the foot of Mt. Hengshan, 65km from downtown Datong City. Since it hangs on the west cliff of Jinxia Gorge more than 50 meters above the ground, it is called Hanging Monastery. Built in 491, it has survived more than 1400 years. The extant monastery was largely rebuilt and maintained in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
You can travel to Datong via an overnight train from Tianjin. Tickets are from 60-200RMB depending on your seat choice and the trip takes about 8h 22m. Train schedule and tickets can be found here.
Ancient City of Pingyao
Founded during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 771 BC) and rebuilt in 1370, the Ancient City of Pingyao is one of China’s four best preserved old cities. Visit this world cultural heritage site via a fast train from Beijing West to Pingyao Ancient Town railway station. Tickets are between 90-250RMB depending on your seat choice and the trip takes about 4h 23m. Train schedule and tickets can be found here, for more information on what you can see, click here.
Whatever you end up doing during your time off, be sure to stay safe and have fun!