Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tianjin proper

On Sunday, I took train to Tianjin city. While I sometimes refer to where I am as ‘Tianjin’, it is an inaccurate simplification. This is a natural matter of convenience- Klang Valley residents will sometimes refer to home as ‘KL’, regardless of them being from KL, PJ, SJ, Kepong, Puchong, USJ etc.

Tianjin itself is very much a provincial industrial city, sprawling and generally low lying with a smattering of tall, architecturally painful buildings in the central commercial area. On my way there, the train passed by a power plant with cooling towers serenely emitting water vapour, a steel tube foundry with a generous assortment of process columns and vents rejecting a variety of hot gasses, and the Research Centre for Physics and Chemistry for Nuclear Industry with an intimidating bounding wall furnished with barbed wire at the top.

Together with a colleague and a subcontractor, I visited two tourist traps with nothing particularly interesting. There were plenty of stalls selling paper cuttings, calligraphy supplies, brass items, clothing items, teapots, wooden furniture…

I should retract that statement. We were browsing very cursorily, and there was no time to inspect the wares properly. Perhaps I will return alone in the future for a better look.

There are apparent attempts by the Tianjin city administration to give traffic signs a measure of bilinguallity. However, they seem to have failed miserably.

WTF, because the foreigner cannot read Chinese characters, they help pronounce it. Without actually conveying any meaning.

The sign actually says ‘excess height not allowed’, and the bit on the right is jingle that goes something like ‘tranquillity is a blessing, life is to be treasured.’


The place I’m staying at does not have internet access, so I occupy my nights by writing nonsensical things (such as this) or reading downloaded copies of the Wall Street Journal (at 2 USD a hit, information does not come cheap), PDF files of Feynman’s Lectures on Physics and a financial analysis and valuation text book. TV does not cut the mustard; as a matter of principle, I do not watch the television due to the thought-stopping and brain-diluting prowess of the goggle-box.

Despite saying I don’t do TV, there is one channel that I enjoy- CCTV Music. Leave it on in the background and one would be entertained with an assortment of classical, folk music from various provinces, occasional operas and even Andrew Loyd Webber’s Cats musical. At the moment, a battalion of string instruments (violins, violas, cellos) are playing something with a very typically Chinese composition.

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