Changsha is the capital of Hunan province of China. Although more of a business trip, we were fortunate that our host company and school offered us the chance to stay on in the hotel at their expense so we could have a day to look around. We took them up on this opportunity immediately as it meant we could see yet another part of China.
Yue Lu Shan
Yue Lu mountain is found on the western side of the river which runs through Changsha. As with other such ‘mountains’ we have encountered in China (such as Purple Mountain in Nanjing) there are a number of tourist points of interest scattered over the site. We were pleasantly surprised to find that access was free but not so prepared for the step climb in 30+ degree temperatures and it was only 8:30 am! Temperatures were expected to hit 33 by 10 am and top off at 35 later in the day. However this did not seem to put off the tourists, some who were cycling up. For those not prepared to walk, you could get an open sided shuttle bus up for only 20 RMB (30 RMB return) or, if you are looking for a more aerial view, then there is a cable car (called a ropeway) for only 35 RMB one way.
The main route up from the East Entrance was the road itself which wound up the side of the mountain up to the TV tower which sits at the peak. Located near to the ropeway terminus, it’s more unusual design is its only notable feature. There are a couple of cafes and ticket booths to access the transport services but little else. That’s because the rest of the points of interest are free for you to access. Your challenge however is to find them! This requires navigation of a myriad of dirt tracks that crisscross the side of the mountain with occasional paved staircases and signposts to help you on your way.
Ancient LuShan Temple
This Buddhist temple is set back from the main road leading down to the South Entrance of Yue Lu Shan and serves as both a place of worship and the province’s Buddhist training college. Anyone who has visited Buddhist temples in China will notice the many similarities to those other sites albeit on a much smaller scale.
Entrance to the temple is free and definitely worth your time to visit and explore if you have an appreciation of the Buddhist style. As you enter the temple, don’t forget to check out the ponds either side of the entrance bridge, home to a large number of turtles.
Changsha is best known within China for being where the father of Communist China, Mao, spent his formative years. Indeed, the city is adorned with statues and attractions to remind you of the importance the city played in his life. One such place was Orange Isle.
Located in the middle of the Xiang river, this island features a large bust of Mao at its Southern tip – it is at this location that Mao is said to have wrote one of his most famous poems “Changsha” about. Before you get to this statue, you will pass a variety of manicured gardens, trees and lakes, accessed by a spider’s web of paths across the site.
The island has its own MTR and bus stations to make access easy for all. Alternatively, you can walk across the bridge that links both East and West riverbanks together, a long but worthwhile trek. When you get to the island, there are a number of cafes and bars you can visit for a refreshment should you wish.
Every Saturday evening at about 8:30 pm, Orange Isle comes alight in a fantastic 20-minute firework display that dominates the skyline of the city centre. This weekly spectacle draws large crowds, necessitating the closure of Orange Isle and the MTR station on the Eastern bank of the river for safety purposes. If you want to see them for yourself from a prime spot, get to the Eastern bank of the Xiang river early and hold tight to your spot!
Changsha is one of the many cities we have been fortunate to visit whilst in China. Others include Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Suzhou. Each has its own distinct style and cultural heritage, making a tour around China to visit a range a worthwhile endeavour.