I didn’t expect anything at all from Changsha, China. The entire reason we stopped in at the city at all was because it was on the high-speed train line from Shenzhen and the stopping off point to catch the train to the Avatar Mountains. However, after googling images of the city, and seeing a giant Mao Zedong head statue, I decided that the city was likely worthy of a day visit. In the end, choosing to spend a day here in Changsha proved far more fruitful from a travel standpoint than I thought. Sure, there’s not a vast array of things to do or see, but it is worthy of a day.
Time Needed: 1-2 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: $40-50USD
Things to Do in Changsha
Most of the activity in Changsha happens around Orange Isle Park which is situated in the middle of the river. On the north end of the island you’ve got the cultural park which has a nice lotus pond as well as a couple really interesting pagodas. The best part about the cultural park is that it’s free. On the south side of the island is the famous Mao Zedong head. It’s a long hike to get down there, but there are some cool things to see along the way. There’s also a ticket you can buy that gives you access to ride the little shuttles which are like over-sized golf carts.
Where to Eat in Changsha
If you’re on a budget, street food is the name of the game in Changsha. There are lots of the street barbecues around the hostel we stayed at. That being said, they seemed to be on just about every street, so I don’t think you’d have far to go to find one. If you’re looking for a famous place to eat, there’s a spot called Huo Gong Dian (78 Pozi Street) that has been made famous by the fact that chairman Mao once ate there. If you’re craving a fix from home, there’s a MacDonald’s at the Changsha train station.
Where to Stay in Changsha
We stayed at the HI-affiliated Changsha International Youth Hostel and thought it was great value. Although the main floor was under a bit of construction, the building itself is on a quiet little side-street and is free of noise. The WiFi is free and was about as fast as any hostel we stayed at in China. There are a lot of little street food stalls nearby, as well, so it’s a decent spot. Dorms were about $7. Our private room, which had a nice ensuite bathroom was about $20. The staff speaks a very small amount of English, but definitely enough to help you figure things out.
Getting out of Town
There are two major bus stations as well as two train stations, so be sure you know which one you’re meant to be leaving from before you go. The fast trains arrive at the Changsha South Station which is easily accessed from downtown via the newly constructed metro. The south station serves places like Guilin and Shenzhen. The central train station serves places like Zhangjiajie. If you’re trying to get to Wulingyuan by bus, you’ll need to head to the east bus station and there are buses that leave once a day or so. It’s best to book a day in advance if you’re catching a bus as they fill quickly.