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Changsha (simplified Chinese: 长沙; traditional Chinese: 長沙; pinyin: Chángshā; Wade–Giles: Chang-sha) is the capital city of Hunan, in south-central China, located on the lower reaches of Xiang river, a branch of the Yangtze River. Its municipality covers an area of 11,819 sq. kilometers and, according to the 2010 Census, a population of 7,044,118 inhabitants[2].

Three thousand years in existence, Changsha encapsulates the richness of Chinese history, while also providing many western luxuries that are often missing from some of the smaller, less developed cities in China. Changsha County, where Aston is situated, is about a thirty minute drive from the city center, a drive which captivates the senses as skyscrapers reach proudly for the clouds, trees bloom in green profusion and lakes meander their merry way alongside the highways and byways.

Travel options between the county and the city are by taxi, which will lighten your wallet by 35 RMB one way, or the cheaper choices – the bus or underground which will cost around 2 RMB one way. China’s fifth largest international airport is situated in Changsha and the high-speed train connects you to most of the other big cities in and around China.

Hunan province, of which Changsha is the capital, is renowned for its extra-spicy, mouthwatering cuisine,

Although less spicy options are also available for the more sensitive pallet. When the craving for western food arises, you can choose between Starbucks, Costa, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC (although KFC is nothing like back home and is best avoided). Carrefour, Metro and Wal-Mart have large import sections, so if Chinese food is not to your taste, rest assured that you won’t starve.

Most shopping (especially for clothes, shoes and accessories) is done on-line where the goods are cheaper, but western clothes shops include Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, Bershka and C&A.

Changsha has four very distinct seasons. Summers are swelteringly hot, at times reaching towards the forty degree mark, but the abundance of air conditioners ease the discomfort somewhat. Spring and autumn are warm and pleasant and winters can be cold, but not unbearably so.

 Yuelu Mountain can be easily hiked during the day and one can join the Taoists and Buddhists as they chant and meditate at the beautiful Lushan Temple and Yunlu Palace. Attractive walkways wind their way gently through rolling green lawns on Juzi Island (or Orange Island), situated in the Xian River and can be traversed on foot or by motorised train, as groves of orange and grapefruit trees, heavily laden with fruit, inspire ones mouth to watering. Towards the tip of the island, the magnificent, majestic rock bust of Chairman Mao Zedong attracts hundreds of tourists daily. The spectacular fireworks display presented on the island each Saturday night is a show not to be missed.

As the sun exudes her final rays of the day upon the east, her brilliant aura is replaced by multitudes of flickering, shimmering, breathtakingly beautiful lights which signal repeatedly to the night owls to come alive. Pubs open their doors and are quickly filled to capacity as musicians seduce their diverse audiences with classic western renditions as well as alluring Chinese tunes. The large expat community mingles gregariously with the locals as they make their way from pub to club, enjoying everything that the night life has to offer.

The exotic fusion of east meets west ensures that Changsa is the perfect city to gently ease the first time traveler into this foreign, ancient country. The abundance of exciting things to see and do means that there is never any excuse to be bored, while the luxury of the apartment and the professionalism and friendliness of the school staff ensure living and job satisfaction. Welcome to Changsha! Welcome to China!



 
 
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March Semester 2014
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