Tianjin -- 天津
As China used to be four separate provinces, each with an autonomous ruling hierarchy, each region had their own capital. Tianjin was one of those capitals and it remains one of the larger cities. Some of the old charm still holds in the antiquity district, a tourist shopping area. In addition to keeping that charm, the city also contains two Olympic venues, one for golf and the other, right next to it, for soccer and track. We sought the former; also, the shopping.
Within the tourist shopping area could be found a variety of 东西 (stuff), the highlights being the scroll paintings, one of China's famed creations; the weaponry; the tea sets; and other traditional Asian wares. Many of the girls went for the paintings and jewelry straight off; the boys, to their swords. Oye. I looked over everything with an equally avaricious eye and ended up finding a ring with mother-of-pearl inlay, a multicolored jade ring (munao), a dagger with Mao Zedong on the sheath, another dagger with a fish-eye on the hilt and its body on the sheath, a scroll painting, a few souvenir flint-and-steel match sets, a variety of other small things, and the best bit: friendship bracelets! A couple of women on the main drag were sitting around doing macramé, so I sat down with them and got an Olympic-ring bracelet (like, actual ring design in the colors) and asked if I could buy some string from them (since I'm running low). They said sure, so, while they counted off my string, I sat and worked on a friendship bracelet of my own. They were duly entertained by both my poor Chinese and my handiwork, so the one woman gave me another bracelet (the Olympic colors, in a zig-zag / straight-across pattern) as a friend. 新的中国朋友 (New Chinese friend)!
The majority of the tourist area was pretty well-populated by stores, booths, and tables; also, tourists. However, in the farther reaches, I found a few courtyards full of books laid out on the ground; and, in another set of courtyards, old coins, other antiquities, and beads to make into bracelets. Quite curious!
That Dog Don't Listen
Lunch was to be had at a famous restaurant in Tianjin, 理不狗 (gou bu li), the Dog who Wouldn't Come. The story behind the name is that a man, who was nicknamed Gou (Dog), ran a very popular restaurant; but it was so popular, he couldn't tend to all of his customers at once! So, when a customer wanted a service, they would call for him: "Gou! Gou!" but Gou would be too busy, and he wouldn't come over. Thus, the restaurant was renamed to Gou Bu Li, the Dog who Wouldn't Come. From this story, we expected Good Things (namely, food).
Due to a little mix-up, we actually went to two Dogs: the first one we visited, which was the first one built, was indeed too crowded for us! So we walked a few blocks across town to another one, which was inside a hotel. Verra fancy! They took us up to a banquet room with several large, circular tables, and heavy lazy susans mounted upon them. Then, they served us appetizers (a variety of meat slices and vegetables), pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings (marked with a red dot on top), broccoli dumplings (yellow tip), and some rice porridge. Ye typical Chinese dumpling meal, they brought out three circular trays of eight or nine dumplings each to the table at a time and laid them out on the lazy susan for us. Also, jasmine tea! Finally, watermelon for closers, as in all the restaurants. The food was delicious, although some people found themselves unsatisfied. (Some people also haven't been eating other Chinese food, anyway.) I found it yummy and now want to go out for more dim sum, maybe later in the month.