Four “Must See” Parks in Tianjin

Parks are a huge part of Chinese culture and they’re used for a massive range of activities. Year-round you’ll see people playing badminton, practicing tai chi, playing musical instruments, boating, flying kites, painting, line-dancing, as well as the ‘usual’ activities of walking, running and playing games. With a population of around 14 million, Tianjin is China’s fourth largest city – it can be fairly hectic, so it’s no wonder the locals appreciate the great network of parks. When you need to escape the hustle and bustle, there’s a bunch of great parks to choose from. Here’s a list of what I consider to be four “must see” parks in Tianjin.

 

Water Park in Tianjin (水上公园 )
Water Park in Tianjin (水上公园 )

Tianjin Water Park ( 天津水上公园 Tiānjīn Shuǐshàng Gōngyuán)

33 Shuishang Gongyuan Bei Lu, Nankai District (天津市南开区水上公园北路33号)

This is the biggest park in Tianjin. It’s situated near the popular expat area of Ao Cheng, so it’s not as central as other parks, but it’s well worth the trip away from downtown. There are loads of winding paths and islands to explore in this truly massive park. You’ll see some ducks, plenty of boats in the summer, and even a Ferris wheel (which is part of a small amusement park). The small zoo has cheap entry and is popular with young and old, and there’s a great view of Tianjin’s TV tower, which makes for photogenic backdrop. 

 

Trash MountainTrash Mountain, or Nancuiping Park (南翠屏公园 )
Trash MountainTrash Mountain, or Nancuiping Park (南翠屏公园 )

Trash Mountain (or Hill Park) (南翠屏公园 Nancuiping Park)

Binshui Xidao, Nankai District (天津市南开区宾水西道)

This is a gorgeous little park tucked away behind Ao Cheng, and as its name suggests, was once a mountain of trash (although it’s really more of a small hill). However, don’t let this interesting fact deter you from visiting this hidden gem. There’s so much on offer here including a running/walking track, several small restaurants, boating in summer, and a man-made snow hill in Winter that you can tube down. What more could you ask for in a park?

 

Tianjin People’s Park (人民公园 Rénmín Gōngyuán)

The intersection of Yong’an Dao and Guangdong Lu, Hexi District (永安道,广东路的交叉点)

Like most big cities in China, Tianjin has its own people’s park. Here you’ll find a variety of fun areas for the young ones (slides and sandboxes), as well as a ton of nice areas for adults to relax and enjoy a sunny day. The west gate is worth a look to take a picture or two and there’s even a couple of birdcages for you Ornithologists out there. This park has a couple of interesting facts: once owned by a salt merchant, it was donated to the state in the mid 1900’s, and it is the only park that Chairman Mao did calligraphy for!

 

Changhong Eco-Park (长虹生态园)

145 Hongqi Lu, Nankai District (天津市南开区红旗路145号)

Here, as with many of the other parks in the city, you’ll find loads of paths winding around water features and plenty of beautiful trees and plants. There’s even a section featuring tropical plants and flowers. Interestingly, this was apparently the first park in Tianjin to stop charging visitors for entry (now almost all parks in Tianjin are free to enter). The West gate is the place to head for drinks, snacks and toys you convince yourself you totally need (but you know you really don’t).  It’s also one of the premier spots in Tianjin to enjoy roast leg of lamb in the summer. Cooked over an open spit, and served with an ice-cold Tsingtao beer, there’s no better way to enjoy an evening in China!

 

Parks in Tianjin are great all year, but spring is by far the prettiest time to visit – there are gorgeous water lilies and colorful flowers blooming everywhere. All parks listed here are free to enter and open 24-hours a day. They can be crowded on weekends, so be prepared to jostle for space at times, or try to work out which times are a little less busy, like early morning . Most of these parks are easy to get to by bus or subway (and then a bit of walking), or if you’d prefer, show (or tell!) a taxi driver the Chinese name and you’ll be there in no time!

 

Where are your favorite parks in Tianjin? Tell us below!

DSCN6110Penny de Vine is a thirty-something Australian freelance writer with a love for travel and trying anything new! You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

City Profile: Chongqing, Chongqing Municipality

Chongqing (重庆) is regarded as the industrial capital of Southwest China. With a population of just under 30 million people, Chongqing Municipality is the most populous of the four direct-controlled municipalities in China. An ancient regional trade center, Chongqing today is still a major manufacturing and transportation hub. But, don’t let that scare you off—despite being known as an industrial city, Chongqing is extremely pleasant and livable, with parks and green areas all over the city.

Chongqing has a long standing historical background—the city dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period—around 316 BC. At the time the city was known as Jiangzhou; its current name was given to the city in 1189 with the crowning of Prince Zhao Dun, who described his crowning as a “double celebration”, the literal meaning of “Chongqing”.

Regarded as one of the “Four Furnaces” of China, Chongqing has an incredibly hot and humid summer. Temperatures reach the high 30’s and the humidity is often more than 80%. At other times of the year, however, the climate is characterized by mild winters, and warm spring and fall seasons.

Unlike most big cities in China, Chongqing is considered to be a sprawling countryside, rather than a city. The lifestyle isn’t as hectic and stressful as coastal mega-cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Unlike many of the Tier I cities, Chongqing has remained affordable to live in. Eating local Chinese food is inexpensive, and a good meal will cost as little as CNY 7 (just over $1). Taxis are also affordable for getting around downtown, and the city’s thirteen districts are well connected by four major subway lines. Access to long distance buses, train stations and the airport are all convenient and cheap. A trip across the city on the subway, will set you back less than CNY 10.

The people in Chongqing don’t usually speak Mandarin, but rather a distinct dialect called 重庆话 (Chongqing hua) or Chongqing Language. It’s a local dialect similar to that spoken in Chengdu and across Sichuan province, also called “Sichuanese”. It’s common for Chinese who speak Mandarin to not fully understand people in Chongqing, and vice versa.

Chongqing is also home to the famous “hot pot” or 火锅 (huǒguō), a selection of sliced meats, fish, and vegetables, typically served in a very spicy (hot) broth. The name hot pot (literally: fire pan) comes from the spicy peppers. While hotpot is the most famous cuisine in Chongqing, you’ll find a lot of interesting and varied food in this mountain city. Their love for spicy food is apparent, but restaurants are nice enough to ask foreigners if they can handle the heat—they’ll prepare a toned-down version of the dish for those who aren’t fond of spice. In Chongqing you’ll also find 小面 “xiǎo miàn or small noodles” and other delicious and spicy foods such as 串串 ” chuàn chuàn” and 干锅 “gān guō or Dry Pot”.

Being a modern city, you’ll also find plenty of western-style restaurants and coffee shops, along with a variety of western supermarkets where you can buy imported food. If you buy a lot of food at once you can go to Metro; plus, one of the biggest IKEA’s in China opened just last year. You can buy Scandinavian furniture for your apartment, or enjoy traditional Swedish meatballs! For shopping and nightlife, most people find their way to Jie Fang Bei or Guan Yin Qiao where you’ll find a myriad of western restaurants, bars and places to kick back and relax.

Chongqing is the kind of city that mixes a little bit of everything. There’s a great mix of business and pleasure within each district, and though some parts feel a bit like a concrete jungle, you can also find quiet parks that overlook the rivers and give you amazing views at night. Chongqing has an eclectic blend of lifestyles—old and new China living side-by-side. It’s common to see business people wearing crisp suits on their morning commute walking alongside the street vendors and 老百姓 “laobaixing, or common people”. It’s a “big, small city”—it has everything without having too much of anything. Chongqing has a friendly spirit and strikes a perfect balance of old and new, making it an amazing city to live, work, and play.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By: Mikkel Larsen

Mikkel Larson

Mikkel is a Chongqing based teacher, blogger, and photographer. He has lived in China since 2010, and can be found blogging here, here, and here

Music Monday: Chinese “èrhú” concert: Live at the Golden Hall of Vienna

In honor of Chinese New Year and ringing in the “Year of the Sheep”, this week’s Music Monday selection features the instrument most evocative of China: the èrhú. The èrhú is a two-stringed fiddle that has been a staple in Chinese folk music since the 10th Century.

One of the best parts about living in China is going for a stroll in a Chinese park and hearing an èrhú live. This video isn’t quite the same, but pretty darn close. Enjoy!

City Profile: Shenzhen, Guangdong Province

Gone are the days when every aspiring teacher wanted to go to either Beijing or Shanghai – Shenzhen is the hottest destination for today’s TEFL crowd. Just thirty-five years ago Shenzhen was nothing more than a small village adjacent to Hong Kong Island. But, Deng Xiaoping’s great “Reform and Opening” brought swift change. Shenzhen became China’s first Special Economic Zone, and the economy subsequently took off. Today, Shenzhen is a boomtown – the first ‘Mega-City’ to spring up in the Pearl River Delta. It boasts a thriving economy specializing in international trade, foreign investment, manufacturing, and financial services offered by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Because of the city’s humble beginnings as a fishing village, it doesn’t have as many cultural or historical attractions as Beijing, Nanjing, or Xi’an. But there’s an offset to this drawback; because of the many opportunities here, it attracts job-seekers from every corner of China. As a result, Shenzhen is one of the most diverse cities in the mainland. Regional cultures, customs, and cuisines from various parts of China blend seamlessly. Not to mention, Shenzhen has loads of modern sights and places of interest, such as the Window of the World, Xichong Beach, Happy Valley Theme Park.

Being a cosmopolitan city with a large expat community, there’s no shortage of western restaurants, bars and nightclubs; plus, plenty of parks, temples, theaters and museums. Shenzhen is a symbol of China’s modern economy, and the birthplace of the entrepreneurial spirit that is now found even in the most remote parts of the country.

If it’s for three days or a year, experiencing Shenzhen should be high on everyone’s ‘to-do’ list when passing through China.

Have a look at our China job board for more information about working in Shenzhen (or anywhere else in China)!

City Profile: Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China

Wuxi is split down the center by Lake Tai and is one of the urban cores of the Yangtze River delta region. Known as “Little Shanghai”, Wuxi is one of the origins of China’s modern commercial development. Located in the Golden Triangle of the Yangtze River, Wuxi is a key member of the “Wu” region of China which comprises the triangular-shaped territory near Shanghai and includes southern Jiangsu Province and northern Zhejiang Province.

This area is notable in China for its distinctive dialect, architecture and its unique waterway transportation along the Grand Canal. Owing to its pleasantly warm and moist climate, it boasts a reputation of the ‘Land of Fish and Rice’. Relying on the near-by Yangtze River and ancient Grand Canal, it had been a port city with the busiest rice and cloth market in China before 19th century.

Besides being a rich cultural repository, Wuxi is blessed with charming natural beauty: the vast Tai Lake with its fascinating water scenes, the ‘Sea of Bamboo’ in Yixing, the Second Spring, Huishan Mountain — the ‘First Mountain South of Yangtze River’ — and so on. Various aspects of nature give you a new experience at every turn.

Located along the main intercity high-speed railway, Wuxi can easily reach Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and other regional hot-spots. The international airport flies directly to most major Chinese cities and other nearby transit hubs in Asia. The new metro line offers city dwellers convenient transportation to points of interest within the city.
With its moderate climate and beautiful natural surroundings, Wuxi is an attractive destination for people to live and work as well as for tourists. With plenty of parks and green spaces, mountains nearby and its proximity to the Yangtze and the Grand Canal, Wuxi offers attractions for all types of travelers, seekers and explorers.

Take a look at the ESL Suite job board for more about teaching jobs in China and in Wuxi City!

City Profile: Changchun, China

Heavenly Lake outside Changchun, Jilin Province
Heavenly Lake outside Changchun, Jilin Province

When directly translating Chinese to English, it’s easy to find laughable mistakes; unfortunately technology has also proven unreliable. There are also terribly literal translations such as “冰球 ” (“ice ball”, otherwise known as “hockey”) or “枫树糖浆” (“maple tree sweet sauce”…you guessed it…”syrup”).

Occasionally however, I come across a word that strikes me as slightly romantic – literally translated, “长春” (Changchun) means “Long Spring”. Somehow the name evokes images of snow-capped mountains and cherry blossoms. Attractions like Changbai Mountain and Heavenly Lake, Jingyuetan National Forest and Nanhu Park all give credibility to Changchun’s reputation as one of the greenest and most livable cities in China.

The provincial capital of Jilin province, Changchun is in the beautiful northeast of China – near Russia, Mongolia and Korea. People often say that China, as seen on a map looks like a chicken (it really does!). If China really is a giant rooster, Changchun is the “eye”.

After overcoming  occupations by the Mongolians and Japan, Changchun has finally flourished into a modern city with a robust economy which includes automobile manufacturing and much of China’s film industry. Unlike many of China’s coastal cities, Changchun has a short history and is still very much a work in progress – because of the city’s reputation as the “City in the Forest”, there is a conscious effort to develop in a sustainable fashion. Green spaces are preserved and the air is among the cleanest in China.

In the past few years, the city has seen several upscale Western restaurants open – and although the nightlife has a long way to go before it catches up with Beijing and Shanghai, there are several good places that are friendly to expats. Changchun is a great place to live for outdoorsy types – especially in winter. Outside the city is skiing, snowboarding and you can find places for ice-skating inside the city.

The food in Changchun is well-known throughout China – ginseng is a specialty here and it is found in several classic dishes. Because of its proximity to the Korean Peninsula, there’s also a notably Korean flair to the food – lots of kimchi and chili sauce for lovers of spicy food – not to mention plenty of tasty seafood dishes.

As nice as it is to live in Changchun, it’s also an easy place to get away from. Beijing, Dalian, Mongolia and Shenyang are all reachable by train. In winter, you can hop on a train to Harbin to see the unbelievable Harbin Ice Festival. I’d show you photos myself but my Canon ‘Elf’ froze while I was there (nearly -40 degrees C)!

With its unique blend of Chinese and Korean culture, well-protected green spaces and rugged mountain surroundings, Changchun is a Chinese city unlike any other.

Come see for yourself why Changchun is such a great place to live – get in touch with the teacher recruitment team at ESL Suite to learn more about teaching jobs in Changchun!

 

City Profile: Hangzhou, China

Regarded as one of the two Paradises on Earth, Hangzhou is widely considered one of the best places to live in China. There’s an expression in Chinese: “上有天堂 下有苏杭” which means, “Above, there is heaven; below there is Hangzhou….”.

The capital of Zhejiang province, Hangzhou is just two hours by bus from Shanghai. With a written history of over 2300 years, Hangzhou is among the Seven Ancient Capitals of China and is known for its natural beauty and green spaces.

Hangzhou is within earshot of three UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites – among which is West Lake, one the most famous scenic areas on China’s coast.

The UNESCO website describes West Lake as, “….comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands.”

A food-lovers delight, Hangzhou cuisine reflects the  Zhejiang preparation style. Notable dishes include “Dongpo pork” (braised pork), clay-pot chicken colorfully named “Beggar’s Chicken” – plus a wide choice of fresh fish dishes.

Being a modern city of nearly 9 million, getting around, shopping and finding exciting nightlife are easy. Qing He Fang Street is the famous “Ancient Culture Street” and reflects characteristics of the Southern Song Dynasty.

Hangzhou is a transport hub with an international airport and connects with most major cities on the coast by train (both slow trains and high-speed rail). Within the city, taxis and buses are cheap and convenient, plus the newly opened Hangzhou Metro is easing some of the burden on the local transit system.

Not only is Hangzhou a wonderful travel destination, it’s also one of the best cities for foreigners living in China. Come see for yourself what all the fuss is about –  working in “Paradise” might be a nice way to spend a gap-year!

Take a look at teaching jobs in Hangzhou and many more ESL teaching jobs in China – ESL Suite can help you find the teaching job you’re searching for!