Changsha (长沙; Chángshā) is the capital of Hunan Province.
In the first millenium BC, it was an urban centre in the state of Chu. In the centuries following, Changsha was often in a state of contention, sometimes incorporated into Han China proper, and at other times heading an independent state. Mao Zedong started his political career here, as a newly-arrived country boy from the nearby village of Shaoshancong. During World War II, it was the first major city that was successfully defended by the Chinese from the Japanese invasion. The Xiangjiang river runs through Changsha.
Huanghua International Airport is the major airport for those seeking to visit Changsha. A 45 minutes drive on the expressway will take you to the city center. Airport buses operate 06:00-22:00 from downtown to the airport and cost ¥16.5. The bus leaves from the CAAC Aviation Hotel on Wuyi Avenue a block west of the central train station. Alternatively for ¥20, take the maglev which has two stops, the terminus being South Railway Station and is connected to Metro Line 2. (The maglev is the second one in China and first using all-domestic technology.)
Traveling from the airport will allow for some window viewing of the relatively wealthy countryside surrounding the city. Although annual floods do sizable property damage, the overflowing of the rivers help irrigate the evergreen and enormous rice paddies.
Warning: do not use the taxi drivers that hang around the terminal trying to catch tourists as they exit customs. At best, you'll end up with an overpriced taxi fare; at worst you'll end up in hospital. Drivers will insist you pay more than what you initially negotiate, holding your luggage and threatening violence until you hand over the cash. This can happen on a busy street in broad daylight, somehow nearby pedestrians and security guards turn a blind eye.
Changsha Railway Station is in the heart of the city. There are direct train connections from many cities or indirect ones using a connecting train. From Beijing it is about 14 hours on a Z Train and 5 hours on a G train.
South Railway Station (of the Wuhan-Guangzhou High Speed Rail) is southeast of downtown, about 25-30 minutes from the city core. From Guangzhou South it is about 2.5 hours on the high speed train, or a minimum of 8 hours on the much cheaper normal trains (a little over one quarter of the price). Duration is about 4.5 hours for trains from Shanghai and about 3 hours from Shenzhen.
Changsha is connected by long distance buses to many cities. There are five bus stations: North, South, East, West, and the bus station near the train station
Ubiquitous taxis flood the city streets, willing to transport you just up the street or to the other side of town. The meters start at ¥8. Each taxi company is slightly different. Night is more expensive than day. It is always easiest if you have the address you want to go to written in Chinese.
If you want to spend like a native or just want to experience the sensation of being sandwiched between natives, then hop on a bus for ¥2 and feel the thrill of speeding down the bumpy roads with barely any breathing room. Buses with air-con (hot or cold) cost 2 ¥2 and buses without cost 1 ¥2
Try the 旅3 Bus! It does a circle around the city stopping at many of the tourist destinations including: Tianxin Pavilion 天心阁 (tianxinge)， Changsha bamboo museum 长沙简牍博物馆 (changsha jiandu bowuguan), the southern part of walking street Nanmenkou 长郡中学 （changjun zhongxue), the river front 长沙轮渡 （Changsha lundu), snack street 坡子街 （pozi jie), Martyrs Park South Gate 烈士公园南门 （lieshi gongyuan nanmen), before returning to the train station.
Google Maps and Baidu Maps can help you decide which bus to take!
Changsha is served by two metro lines (as of Jul 2016). Line 1 runs north-south and Line 2 runs east-west, the latter serving both railway stations and Wangchengpo (West Bus Station). Network maps on the platforms show an additional four lines (and extensions) which are set to open in coming years.
- Hunan Provincial Museum (湖南省博物馆). Closed for renovation until 2015-2016! Tu-Su 09:00-17:00, expect to get kicked out 20 minutes before closing, on a first come first serve basis, your ticket will have a time stamped on it that will show when you are allowed to enter the exam. Show up early in the morning if you want to get in right away, otherwise you might have to pick up a ticket and then return in a few hours to enter. See the Han era tomb of Xin Zui, the Marquess of Dai, and her 2,100 year old preserved body. It's extraordinary and looks more real than Ho Chi Minh. Her body was still moist and flexible when they found her, complete elastic skin. Also at the museum are many exhibits on all kinds of Han Dynasty artifacts, including pottery, lacqureware and an impressive collection of intact silk. Admission is free.
- Hunan University, (across the river). You will find lots of great places to eat in and around the studious atmosphere of the various campus' south of Yuelushan.
- Kaifu Temple 开福寺, 长沙市 开福寺路 (Take any bus to either the 开福寺西 or 开福寺 bus stations.). 9:00-18:00. This temple is only 10 yuan and you get a package of incense. It is really quite beautiful and is one of the few functioning temples in Changsha. Inside there is a fairly good vegetarian restaurant, don't be fooled by the menu all the meat is fake! 10 Yuan.
- Orange Isle 桔子洲, (Subway Line 2 to 橘子洲 Juzi Zhou). This island is fairly large, so bring your walking shoes and some water! There are golf carts and mini buses for people who choose not to walk (about 20yuan per person). The south end of the island has the famous statue of Chairman Mao when he was a young man. The walk there is beautiful, there are many beautiful gardens and winding paths. The north end of the island is where you will find a swimming pool, spa, and a grassy field where many music festivals take place. The most famous being the Orange Isle Music Festival which is held it the beginning of September. Visitors are not permitted on the island if the river is flooding (possible in June/July). There are a few restaurants on the island but all are fairly pricey. There are tons of vendors that sell water and snacks but there is a slight mark-up! free.
- Yuelu Academy, Hunan University (Changsha's west side, South Rd), ☎ 0731-88822352, . The Thousand Year Old centre of culture and learning of southern China. Rich in history and beautiful period architecture, a visit to the academy will put you in touch with the ancient elites of southern China. You can find all the history on the website and then visit the academy yourself to get the real experience.
- Yuelu Mountain (岳麓山). A local mountain, Yuelushan is a pleasant retreat from the urban grit of Changsha. Take the cable car up in the morning, and spend your day wending your way down. There are plenty of teahouses, pavilions, and the occasional temple to stop at on the way down. You can explore Yuelu Academy near the bottom of the mountain, Central South University at the base.
- Martyrs park, (Take bus 150 from furong square, 3 stations.). Has, a nice lake with boats. Also a memorial to those who died establishing the communist government.
- Theaters. Watch traditional folk art, eg lion dance, drum opera, clam dance and Xiang Opera.
- Orange Isle Music Festival, 橘子洲 (Subway: Line 2 to Orange Isle). 3:00-10:45. Once a year, usually in the beginning of september, there is a two day music festival of international music. Usually this means many Chinese main land bands, then some bands from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Every once in a while they will have a band from Europe that plays. 120yuan per day.
- 46Live, 长沙市岳麓区新民路52号湘财大厦负一层 (Any bus to 市四医院 Shisiyiyuan). 9:30. 46Live is a live music venue in Changsha. It used to be on the east side of the river but has since moved to the west. They feature local music, Chinese bands, and foreign bands. They always have a list of their shows posted on wechat, and facebook. The price varies. They also have a pool table and foosball! Varies.
- Wuyi Shopping Circle. The most important shopping area downtown.
- Kaifu temple, Hua xia road (Take 501 from zhong shan ting). The cities main buddhist temple
- ID Mall 悦方ID, 坡子街. A giant mall in the center of Changsha! There is a movie theater on the top floor, ice skating on the 4th floor, a grocery story on the bottom level, as well as tons of shopping and restaurants.
When eating in Changsha there is nothing better than a plate of stinky tofu (chou dofu) or soo-yo-bing bought right off the street. If you have just arrived, be wary of eating from street vendors. Although the inviting aroma of food cooking may be too tempting to resist, you better have a strong stomach if you do not want to get an upset one.
Food in Changsha is famously described as xiang cai. As Xiangjiang is the major river that borders the city to the west, Xiang denotes not only the flavor and taste of the food but also of the land. Changsha, like Szechuan is known for spicy food, but without the additional ma, numbing affect of certain spices and pepper. In summer, oversized metal mixing bowls filled with crayfish seasoned with plenty of chili and spices, take the stage atop countless tabletops. Restaurants get so busy and overcrowded that tables, chairs along with diners spill into the busy streets.
For international cuisine, four and five star restaurants have reputable chefs although for a visitor, the inifite array of dishes native to or with a Hunan flair are sure to please even the most discriminating palate.
Head straight to Snake Alley for the best point-and-eat in the city for merely pennies.
- Food Street, (on the first floor of Huatian Hotel). Choices and a sampling of regional foods of the country. Long established and well-regarded, this cozy and rustic restaurant stays bustling through the wee morning hours as food enthusiasts, businessmen, and families with their children flock to this fun food court. Do not be fooled though by the fast-food style of ordering (prepared food is displayed at various stations, your orders are placed by a hole punched on your menu card and then served freshly prepared within minutes of ordering), the food here is superb.
- Huo Gong Dian (火宫殿; lit: The Fire Palace), 78 Pozi St (坡子街) (behind Wal-Mart, on the snack street), ☎ +86 731 85817591, . Local Hunan cuisine. Chairman Mao ate here. You might enjoy Choudoufu (stinky tofu), Changsha Doupi, Pineapple bread (contains chunks and similar to some Indian breads), Yangrou Chuar (lamb kebabs), Niurou (beef in baskets, relatively fat-free), corn soup and vegetables which are cooked in front of you.
Jiefang West Road (解放西路; Jiefangxilu) has a few Chinese clubs along this road, including SoHo, the ubiqiutous Chinese chain. Drinks tend to be expensive, the music loud, and clubs crowded. It's just off the main walking street so it is in quite a handy location.
Taiping Street (太平街; Taipingjie) is a newly refurbished area, with traditional/tacky facades has a few smaller bars, some with live music. It is just off Jiefang West Road towards the river. This is a touristy shopping street and many prices are on par with the West. Bargaining is impossible here. Even those who speak little English know how to say no bargains. But the shops are worth seeing to get an idea of what is available.
- Crave Deli & Bar, C31 West Street, Wanda Plaza/长沙市 开福区 通泰街街道 万达广场开福金街C-31 (Located on the back side of Wanda Plaza. Nearest subway stop is Xiangjiang Middle Road/湘江中路), ☎ +86 15388034382, . Open 7 days a week, 10:00AM - late. Changsha's main expat hangout, Crave is home to more than 40 beers from around the world and features Asahi, Heineken and San Miguel on tap. The cocktail menu includes many classic western cocktails with 'Crave' pours and affordable prices. Enjoy one of their tasty appetizers, gourmet burgers, flatbread pizza, or loaded sandwiches. Plus don't miss the weekly specials: Taco Tuesday, Wing Wednesday, and crazy all-you-can-drink Saturday night parties. Sandwiches ¥22 - ¥38. Beer ¥14 - ¥35 Cocktails: ¥20 to ¥30.
- BarZero, Changsha Xingsha Quan Tong International Logistics Park C District 12 Building No. 7, ☎ 18707497420. Provide excellent F&B plus service comfort the guest while stay in the BAR 0’s, creating a wonderful platform for foreigner and Chinese to exchange ideas, experiences coffee and cocktails cultures and languages. Moreover, Bar 0’s provide tourisms information while foreigner staying in Chang Sha.
- Jinjiang Inns, Nanhu Rd, Tianxin District (taxi straight from the airport costs ¥100, the rate seems to be fixed into town). After each bath the room steams up for hours because the flooring was made of an unidentifiable material. It is a bit of a way out, but the staff are nice. The new no.1 metro line has opened, and the Nanhu Station is next to this hotel, making the location very convenient. Around ¥200.
- FeeTel Inns Changsha, Wuyi St, Furong District (芙蓉区, 五一大道) (near the corner of Huangxing Zhong Rd (黄兴中路)), ☎ +86 1807 310 3459.
- Yuelu Shan Youth Hostel (岳麓山国际青年旅舍), Villa No. 1, Lushan Huaqiaocun, 50 Xinmin Rd (新民路50号麓山华侨村1号别墅) (In a courtyard behind Yangcheng Restaurant (Yángchéng Cānguăn hòumiàn), in Yuèlù, West of the Xiang river.), ☎ 0731-85368418. Comfortable, well kept and friendly staff. Conveniently located for climbing Yuelu Shan. Doubles for ¥128, Dorms around ¥50..
- 7 days Inn. ¥140.
- Huatian Hotel Changsha (华天大酒店总店), 300 East Jiefang Road (Jiefang Dong Lu),Changsha, . The Huatian Hotel Changsha (Changsha Huatian Dajiudian) is a five-star hotel located about 2 kilometres from the railway station. The hotel provides various guestrooms, all equipped with air conditioning, mini bars and international direct-dial phones.
- Dolton Hotel Changsha (长沙通程国际大酒店), 159 North Shaoshan Road (Shaoshan Bei Lu) Furong Changsha, . Changsha's Dolton Hotel (Changsha Tongcheng Guoji Dajiudian) is a five-star hotel located in the heart of the city only 30 minutes by car from the airport and five minutes from the railway station.
- The New Hooligans Pub (Huli Ba), 55 Aimin Rd just off of Xinmin Rd, Hexi. (from downtown cross the #1(middle bridge) and turn left on Yuelu Rd, turn left at the next light onto Xinmin Rd and take another left by Mona Lisa Restaurant. Hooligans Pub is across and a bit to the right in front of 7 Days Inn.), ☎ 13973116221. checkin: 5PM; checkout: 2AM. Hooligans Pub has moved to a bigger more comfortable location and they now serve western food! It also has a huge rooftop garden! 10 Yuan and up. (N28 11' 45.93,E112 56' 58.35)
Shaoshan the birth place of Chairman Mao can be easily accessed from Changsha by bus. Go to the local bus station for tickets (assumed).
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