The first time I wrote an entry with this title, it was with the idea of reviewing some of the cities I'd visited from the perspective of seeking a possible new home. Looking back, that screening proved unnecessary because here I am 4 years later, still in Wuhan, and still loving it. That doesn't stop me from traveling around and, with each visit considering: Could I live there?
Wenzhou: Seemed to me a rather mean town, where people drink the beer and eat the glasses. Industry is king there, with factories of all sizes – from mammoth, fume-disgorging concerns to hole in the wall, piecemeal and no doubt poorly paid work. This relatively small town gets virtually no government money and I saw no repair work or new construction, even though it was sorely needed. There is a bus system, but they run infrequently and the vehicles are sad, tired things, belching smoke. However, the people I met (through Gary) were nice and welcoming. CILT? No. No foreigner commodities that I saw and hardly anything to do.
Hangzhou: Now there is a gem of a town! Hangzhou has a lot to offer. In fact, it is an up and coming financial center whose focus is fashion. Someone looking for work could do well there. Beyond that: public transportation is more than adequate and there are plenty of foreigner conveniences. For entertainment and relaxation, one can take in the tea plantations and temples, and ride a cable car to the top of the mountain to see the whole city spread out at their feet. Lots of shopping, nice restaurants and funky cafes to while away an afternoon. Abundant, lush vegetation and clean air. CILT? Yes. But not so much that I'm enticed to leave Wuhan.
Qingdao: a lovely coastal city with a lot of history. Plenty to see and do, but food choices seem to be lacking if you are not into seafood. In spite of its German heritage, I found virtually no German influence (no German restaurant!), which was kind of disappointing. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. Public transportation is widely available and the city is easy to navigate. The people are very friendly and accommodating. There are some foreigner concessions and vigorous sea air. CILT? Probably not, because of the chilly, damp climate and the food. A nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to call it home.
Wudang: For me, a mystical place. While no great shakes, the people more than make up for what the city lacks. Public transportation is adequate for a town its size, and everywhere there are cars for hire. No foreigner concessions that I know of. The temple of Wudangshan – the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu and this burg's claim to fame is a must. The higher up the mountain, the better the air but at street level, beware of dust. CILT? Perhaps. It is close enough to Shiyan and Wuhan that I could ride the train to make a day out of shopping and dining.
Suzhou: Beautiful! I couldn't help but repeatedly exclaim over its loveliness. Wide avenues where the many buses trundle along efficiently. Her 2 subway lines are clean and well maintained. This city is not as crowded as some, and seems to beckon visitors. Water villages Zhou Zhuang and Tong Li lie nearby, and there is a riverwalk to dally around in the evening. The food was good. Plenty of foreigner concessions. People seemed a bit reserved, though. CILT? Probably, but not my first choice of places to hang my hat if I had to leave my current digs.
Wuhu: EVERYTHING about this city is perfect for me! Plenty to see and do, and the food is fantastic! What really crowns it are the people: they radiate happiness! Plenty of public transportation, and - surprise, surprise: courteous drivers! I couldn't help but notice: cars stayed in their lanes, did not cut each other off and did not continuously honk their horns. There are some foreigner restaurants but not many concessions... which really doesn't matter because Wuhu is only 2 hours by train from Nanjing. CILT? Yes. YES!!! A thousand time YES!!! If not for my loyalty to my school I would be packing my bags right now.
Hefei: to be perfectly frank, I did not give this city a fair shake. Coming from my perfect Wuhu, the dirt, the cacophony, the rudeness of the people I met in Hefei did not make a favorable impression. This town seems to be undergoing a rebirth and everything is topsy-turvy. Renegade traffic, torn up sidewalks, people aggressively hustling. Objectively: there are some foreigner restaurants but not much in the way of concessions. However, it is close enough to major cities where those outlets abound. The air is dirty from all of the construction. I was not impressed with the food. CILT? No. In spite of my optimism at the outset of my visit, I found little that might convince me to want to hang my hat there.
Jingdezhen: the porcelain capital of China. Active archeology digs make it interesting to me, but there is not much else there besides Pottery Row where one can buy wholesale china. It gets virtually no government money and suffers from that lack. There is a mass transit system but traffic seems to be a nightmare. I imagine it might be difficult to get around. Few foreigner concessions and the people seem reserved. I did not care for the trademark food: sour noodles. CILT? No. Even if I had to, I wouldn't want to.
Ezhou: a mostly rural, quiet little town one hour outside of Hubei province's capital city. It is easy and cheap enough to get to Wuhan that the lack of foreigner goods and concessions doesn't matter. The people are very friendly and kind. For being a smallish, industrial town the air is fairly clean. Public transportation is adequate and the city is easy to navigate by bus. Plenty to see and do outdoors. CILT? Yes. I'd like to retire in Ezhou.
Shanghai: I probably don't need to give anyone a description, do I? I can share my thoughts, though.
Plenty of foreigners and foreigner conveniences. Plenty to see and do. The subway system is a marvel and buses abound, but they are unreliable. For such a large city the air is remarkably clean. Food tends toward the sweet, although I did have some super salty dishes. In the right district Shanghai is indeed a 24-hour city. CILT? Well, I could but I don't want to. Shanghai felt deceptive to me, with the pretty, rich Eloi playing while the Morlocks toiled away, unrecognized and unacknowledged.
Twenty cities in 4 years. Not bad, I'd say. Makes me wonder...