Changsha, China is not the world’s most exotic destination, it’s not even much of a tourist destination, but regardless it’s quickly becoming a known travel destination thanks to Hainan Airlines twice weekly service from Changsha to Los Angeles. After I flew Business Class on Hainan Airlines to the capital of Hunan, the metropolis of over 2 million people, I figured out that Changsha offers not only fantastic spicy food, but shopping, historical tourism, and is the gateway to so much more! Continue Reading to See what to do in Changsha!
Although I was only in Changsha for two days, I honestly did not even bother with a lot of the tourist destinations. By speaking with Chinese locals, I was told to avoid most destinations on trip advisor, such as the Mawangdui tombs. So instead, I ate my way through Changsha, enjoying the deliciously spicy street food and stinky tofu, and spent my days doing what locals do – hiking the mountain and going to Orange island.
Hunan Hotpot! A must have!
Orange Island is a must do while in Changsha, and it’s conveniently accessed by the cities single metro line. The large island in the middle of the heavy polluted Xiangjiang river offers reprieve from the cars and chaos of the city. The large park offers green space in a otherwise concrete jungle. The best part, the entire island is car free. Stroll along the river, enjoy the city views (especially nice at night when the buildings light up in unison and have dancing lights), and see the ginormous young Mao monument. If you don’t’ feel like the 4km walk to Mao, there is a trolley system on the island.
sorry Mao – I couldn’t help but pick your nose 😉
a view of Changsha from Orange Island
Another hot spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, is Yuelu Mountain. This national park is walkable from Yingwanzhen metro station. This mountain peaks 300 meters above Changsha and offers fantastic views—when you can see through the smog. The park provides a place for wildlife spotting, picnics, hiking, and more. When I visited Yuelu Mountain, it actually snowed, and the ominous weather provided the perfect scene for a horror movie! Nevertheless the 3 hour hike over the mountain was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The prize of one’s hike, once down from the mountain a street full of food vendors offer delicious Hunan specialties such as stinky tofu, cho, bings, and more.
I hiked along the road, but on nicer days there’s a chairlift if you don’t want to climb the hill
There are several viewpoints and other items to see within Yuelu Mountain Park, such as this lake, cemeteries, monuments, and more! And when you’re done, there is lovely food waiting for you at the bottom of the mountain!
After the sun went down, I checked out a couple of bars. The bars that strike a cord with my memory are Crave and the Residence. Crave is a bar and café where expats in Changsha come together to smoke cigarettes, drink good libations, snack on food, play cards, and connect over the differences of living and working in China vs their home countries. Ran by an American, everyone working in the bar speaks perfect English and will offer you a feeling of the West. Meanwhile the Residence is completely a different atmosphere and offers a place to put your hands in the air, roll with the music, and shake it until the sun comes up. Drink specials usually last until midnight and a DJ spins all night long!
Pictures from the Residence Night club
Changsha is no Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, or even Dalian, but it does have it’s charm. With so many people taking advantage of Hainan’s $550 economy class fares and $1300 Business Class fares, I would love it if other travelers to Changsha shared advice or tips with each other. After all, Changsha is not a common tourist destination!
One thing to look forward to, the people of Changsha are extremely friendly! From my broken Chinese from the days of living in Beijing, to the few people I met who spoke English, everyone was helpful and smiled. And even when there was as major language barrier, the locals are willing to figure it out via hand gestures! Not to mention, when I was out and about I didn’t pay for a single drink, as just about everyone in the bars in Changsha wanted to buy me, the rare western a drink!
What was your experience like in Changsha? Tips? Advice? Please share below!