The Highs and Lows of Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park

The Highs and Lows of Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park
By Mike Cormack ,

Binhai is an industrial city and falls well behind Beijing in terms of history and culture, but it does have some good places to visit, such as the Water Park, Ancient Culture Street and the TV Tower. Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park is a remarkable and surprisingly unknown Tianjin attraction. Essentially a decommissioned aircraft-hanger on the coast between TEDA and Hangu, the theme park gives a glimpse of the war-torn strife of recent Chinese history.

Simply getting to the theme park is in itself something of an adventure. It lies beyond the furthest reach of the Tianjin-Binhai light rail, so the easiest way to get there is to take the light rail from Tianjin (or Tanggu/TEDA if you live there already) to the last station. There are plenty taxis waiting at the station and also at the attraction’s car park, who will take you for about 40 RMB either way, through the raw townships of Binhai and Hangu. You will need to have the name of the theme park in Chinese, either written or remembered. Cost of entry to the park is 130 RMB per person.

Venturing inside
The enormous, towering aircraft carrier is docked at a small harbour with an exhibition on its right, featuring models of fighter planes, helicopters, paratroopers and soldiers amidst sandbags, grenade launchers and anti-tank guns. However, the real delight of the theme park is the aircraft carrier itself. It’s a vast ship several hundred feet long and over one hundred feet high, which you enter via a gangway into the lower decks. These decks, once the engine-room of operations, are now display rooms showing photos and war memorabilia. The pictures set the tone of the whole experience onboard, showing grim scenes from various wars. This deck is also home to the missile launch rooms, with twenty-foot torpedoes giving a sense of the sheer scale of operations to which the carrier was once home, not to mention the claustrophobia and tension which must have been endemic in the small, narrow rooms.

Up the stairs and out onto the outside deck you will see the runway, a good quarter-mile with more fighter planes at either end. These jets are razor-nosed and sleek but are obviously long decommissioned; there’s no menace about them. A restaurant, gift-stalls (featuring model tanks and guns made from bullet shells) and some snack vendors are also on this deck. Back inside, further steep ladders lead to the control rooms, the navigation room and the captain’s office. (The theme park is not a place to visit if mobility is a concern. You may be able to visit the exhibition outside, but even climbing the gangway might be difficult for some). Both control rooms are delights of antique controls, with a great number of clunking dials, valves and switches labelled in Cyrillic font.

The war is over
Although the ship is designed for fighting, the theme park goes some way to offering a harmonious message. The carrier has a string of international flags stretching from one side to the other, and one rather gets the sense that the whole park is a reminder of the immense waste and trauma of war, rather than glorifying its heroics. As impressive as the aircraft carrier is, it’s more like a monument than an active threat. As was said of the Charge of the Light Brigade – “it’s magnificent, but it’s not war”.

Tianjin Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park天津滨海航母主题公园View In Map
Address: Bagatuan, Yingcheng Town, Hangu District, Tianjin
Tel: +86 22 5991 8888
Opening hours: 9: 00- 17: 00
Admission: 130 RMB per person
Getting there: Take Jinbin Light Rail to Tanggu Station; then transfer to bus 133 to the park 

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