I am continuing to catch up on backlog travel posts from 2019 that I never finished. The below post describes a weekend trip we took to the city of Changsha in Hunan Province, less than a 4 hour train ride from Hong Kong!
Welcome to Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province and home to the place where Chairman Mao spent his student years and adopted communism. Changsha is about a 3-4 hour high speed rail train ride away from Hong Kong, so it's accessible for a long weekend trip, which is what we did.
Hike at Yuelu Mountain on the west bank of Xiangjiang River. There are many really old trees from prior dynasties.
Orange Island is famous for its orange trees and the largest president statue in China (yes, it's Mao again, he's all over the city).
It's a long walk along the water, maybe 30 minutes, to get to the statue.
Street Food Galore
The food! There's endless amounts of street food. The signature dish of the region is the spicy crayfish. Hunan food is spicy! Beware . . . Pictured above: black stinky tofu 臭豆腐, a large "hot dog" like stick, spicy crayfish, panfried soup dumplings 生煎包， and an interesting panfried egg crepe filled with sticky rice that I actually just saw but didn't try!
China has many drink fads, such as Hey Tea 喜茶 from Guangzhou (famous for its whipped "cheese" topped tea). In Changsha, the most popular tea shop is 茶颜悦色 "Cha Yan Yue Se“, which has locations all over the city.
Being Adventurous - Trying Spicy Snake
I tried another slightly exotic local specialty, snake in spicy sauce! It was . . . . interesting. Kind of like eel, with lots of bones. The skin is actually the most interesting part. It has a chewy texture, sort of like the carp skins you can get in Hong Kong. Frankly speaking, that was probably the best part. The meat is only so-so, and there's just way too many bones.
Changsha has a lot of fun streets with loads of character that you can just explore.
Spicy Hunan Dinner!
We enjoyed a delicious (but very spicy) dinner at a sit-down restaurant our final evening. We enjoyed some Hunan specialties pictured above. Crayfish are one of the local specialties. Although often they are boiled, we enjoyed a fun fried version, which was fantastic. I would highly recommend ordering one or two non-spicy foods for balance. In our case, it was the fried tofu that offered relief!
All in all, our trip to Changsha was short but still quite fun. It's conveniently accessible by high speed rail from Hong Kong, less than a 4 hour trip, which wasn't too bad for a long weekend outing. Alas, that was in the carefree days when travel was easy and there was no pandemic.
The border has been effectively closed to us for over a year now. Hopefully things will open up soon and we'll have a chance to go back and explore many more cities in China.