Tianjin has a fair share of some major stereotypes to shake off. Don't be fooled by unassuming this city may first appear - Tianjin could easily be mistaken for a nature haven, a historic European city, or a megacity in its own right. Lucky for us, it's all of those and more.
Oh, and it's also the second gateway to Beijing - it's a mere 30 minute ride on the bullet train to downtown Beijing. And it'll only cost you RMB22 (less than SGD$5), which is cheaper than what it will cost you to get there from Beijing Capital Airport.
Here's a peek into what else is waiting for you once we start flying to Tianjin.
1. Go the local route and try the Tianjin pancake (jian bing guo zi) – a savoury snack sold at street stalls all over the city, or the guo ba cai, a dish made with sliced pancakes placed in a boiling pot of thick gravy.
2. Try Tianjin’s famous steamed buns, filled with pork and spices, at Goubuli Bun Shop’s first outlet at 77 Shandong Road.
1. Shopaholics can spend entire days on the pedestrianized Binjiang Road, which has large malls as well as speciality shops selling everything from hats to clocks. Tianjin is also a good place to snap up the Clay Figure Zhang (ni ren zhang), a famous folk art featuring images that range from palace maids in costumes to historical figures. If you need to get souvenirs for family and friends, consider buying the famous Xiaobao Chestnuts (li zi).
1. The last emperor of China, Pu Yi, once lived in Tianjin. You can visit his modest residence, Jing Yuan (Garden of Serenity), at Anshan Road.
2. Soothe tired muscles at the Regal Riviera Hot Spring Resort in the Baodi District, which has over 60 hot bathing pools. For a more active holiday, visit the Dongli Lake Holiday Resort for watersports like speedboating and waterskiing.
3. On a clear day, a ride on the Tianjin Eye will offer you a panoramic view of Tianjin from 120m above the ground. The Tianjin TV Tower – the eighth tallest tower in the world – will also give you a great bird’s eye view of the city.
4. Tianjin is packed with colonial buildings as it was once home to foreign concessions. A good area to wander around is the Wu Da Dao (Five Avenues District), which has many European-style villas and buildings dating back to the 1930s. If your time is limited, visit Italian Style Town (yi da li feng qing jie), which is one of the few well-preserved centres of Italian architecture outside Italy.
1. The Sitong Bar located in the basement of Ascott’s Somerset Olympic Tower is one of the best places to let your hair down. For a younger crowd, go to Scarlet Bar along Weijin Road, a spot favoured by students and twenty-somethings as it’s near two universities.