Go to Tianjin for Quiet Fun

Have you been tired of the crowds in Beijing? If the answer is yes, then you can hop on the bullet train from Beijing South Railway Station and within 20 minutes, you will be transported to another world – tranquil yet exciting, which will remind one of a quiet farming town and a romantic Italian riverside county.

Wuqing, a 20-minute train ride from Beijing and 10-minute ride from Tianjin, is ideal for a day trip from the two metropolises. The earliest train departs at 6:45 am from Beijing South station; 20 others follow throughout the day. You could start your adventure at the center of the town, from the Culture Park. There, you will witness people practicing tai chi, playing Chinese yo-yo, or kongzhu (a toy consisting of two equally sized discs connected with a long axle) and twisting to the Yangko dance, without a care in the world.

A district within Tianjin, Wuqing boasts several parks within walking distances of its town center.

The best part about the parks is their serenity. You can enjoy almost complete solitude in the company of reeds, flowers and stretches of clear water.

The parks run along the banks of the Great Canal between Beijing and Hangzhou – where the scenery is beautiful. There are fluffy reeds, florets, rows of trees, occasional flocks of sheep, wide patches of golden fields and a tranquil little village.

Also along the banks of the canal is a pathway that meets the standards of international-level marathons and cycling events.

At the end of the northern stretch of the canal, there is a trailer park. Caravans that come with a small garden are parked sporadically on that plot of land. They are available for rent, with two weeks’ advance reservation. Adjacent to it is a parterre, children’s playground and aisles ideal for lovers.

The place is also good for camping, picnics or barbecues under the shade.

If such a pastime proves too quiet and lonesome, the district has something else to offer.

For those looking to experience (near) zero gravity and heart-stopping thrills, Victory Park is the answer.

The park has the highest “speed racer” in Asia, where a carriage is pushed up both ends of a U-shaped track and let down suddenly and repeatedly. Its other major attractions are the swinging Pirate Ship, shriek-inducing spinning roller coaster, suspended looping coaster and an adventure section called In Somalia.

While teenagers enjoy the theme park, the Florentia Village next to it is a draw for women of all ages – and not just because of the hint of Italian romance. Strolling in the village is to be transported through time and space. Modeled after Venice, it has a river that cuts through the middle, gondolas parked at the shore, photogenic drawbridges and a central plaza with spouting fountains specially made to look ancient and Italian.

But it’s really a hub of outlet shops that include everything from Burberry, Prada and Jimmy Choo to Gap, Tod’s and Diesel. It’s a one-stop shopping destination, with a wide range of shops for each family member, and food outlets, playgrounds for children and alleyways good for holding hands.

The general image it aims for is displayed on its posters: Michelangelo’s David in designer jeans, one arm holding several shopping bags and the other pointing triumphantly at the village, a shopping haven with exotic taste.

The popularity of Florentia Village and its 200 brands is proven by the almost-packed parking lot. Judging by the license plates, some 70 percent visitors come from Beijing.

It’s more than an hour’s drive away from the capital, but here is the perk: The outlet village is right across the street from the rail station.

Besides, phase two of the village is under construction. More brands and discounts are expected within the coming year.

The village closes at 8 pm in winter, and leaves more than enough time to get a pack of Wuqing’s signature salted peanuts, amble over to the railway station, and hop on the last train for Beijing. It leaves at a quarter to nine.