USA vs. Japan Football; The Steamed Buns that Bush Sr. Ate

The Olympics are well under way, and the opening ceremony taken place yet. Yesterday we attended a US vs. Japan football game in Tianjin, half an hour from Beijing on the new bullet train. (Which, with a fast speed of 350 km per hour, still pales in comparison to TGV and Shinkansen trains. But a great development nonetheless.)

The stadium at Tianjin is brand new, enormous, and quite impressive. The crowd was mainly Chinese, almost all of whom were supporting the US; unfortunately, historical resentment of Japan still prevails. Behind us sat an adorable Japanese family whose toddlers were waving Japanese flags and whose dad had a straw hat with both the US and Japanese flags poking out. There were a few Americans in the 35,000-person crowd, about 15 of us scattered around. This is what happens when you come from a country where nobody plays soccer after the age of 12.

I was sitting in the nosebleed section; the telephoto lens came in handy as binoculars.

Although Japan was the favorite coming into the match, the US ended up winning 1 to 0. A few Americans ran around shirtless, much to the amusement of the Chinese.

We left the stadium as the next crowd was coming in for the Holland vs. Nigeria match. And wow, did the Dutch show up in force. We ran into a stream of about three or four hundred Dutch fans all decked out in orange, with various levels of accessorizing.

Hailing from a country without an intense passion for football (at least, not the universal definition of football), I felt somewhat left out. So we hopped in a cab and were heading for the train station when the cabbie convinced us to stop at Goubuli Restaurant for their "famous" baozi, little meat-filled steamed buns that are a Tianjin specialty.

Goodness, were they expensive, about 3 to 4 times the price of any basket of steamed buns you can get in Beijing or Shanghai. And at least to me, there was nothing special in the taste that warranted the overpricing. The pork and seafood fillings seemed rather bland, with or without the 18-fold pleating of the buns.

What the restaurant has going for it is history, purportedly over 150 years of it. The main entrance hall is lined with photos of Mao & Friends dining on the Goubuli baozi.

And according to one placard, when "Old Bush" was the US ambassador to China in the '70s, he and Barbara ate steamed buns here. Time will tell if his son will do the same on this trip.


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