Tag Archives: Jiangyin

The 215 Circle

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I learn about Changzhou by riding buses.

I had written this into Baidu Translate, switched it into Chinese, and showed it to a rather bewildered bus station employee. She smiled and nodded, and then started rattling off something in Chinese. I replied with 对不起,我的中文很真不好  Duìbùqǐ, wǒ de zhōngwén hěn zhēn bù hǎo (I am sorry, my Chinese is really bad). She smiled, nodded, and left me alone.

When you wander around like I do, you sometimes get this sense of bewilderment from the locals. Who is this foreigner? And why is he here, of all places? Is he lost? He has to be! There is no reason for him to be here! Typically, this attitude pops up more in far flung places. It never happens in downtown Xinbei or Nandajie, because, well, the locals tend to expect foreigners to be there — not in a place like Huangtu 黄土镇.

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Technically, I was not really even in Changzhou anymore. Huangtu is actually part of Jiangyin. However, I had taken the 215 bus from Hohai University and I rode it to its terminus. It had passed Dinosaur Park, and then it turned and eventually crossed over the city line. Jiangyin / Huangtu is part of Wuxi, so technically, you could say I took the bus to Wuxi today. The idea was to to get off and explore the area.

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Turns out, there wasn’t much to see. The 215’s end of the line is in an really obscure corner of Huangtu. So, I just walked down the road and bought a pack of smokes and returned to the bus station. I did notice one thing.

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There was a guy out here who set up a bee apiary, and the bees were all over the place.

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I don’t know if the guy was selling honey. If he was, he picked a silly location because literally there is no traffic out here.  For some reason and by random association, the following two lines of a Pablo Neruda poem leaped into my imagination:

 

Where can a blind man live

who is pursued by bees?

 

Donde puede vivir un ciego

a quien persiguen las abejas?

–Translation by William O’Daly

 

Neruda never answers that question, either. It comes from his The Book of Questions. The whole poetry collection is just a long list of surreal and unanswerable inquiries. I made a mental note to see if this volume was on Kindle, later. At the moment, however, I was happy to note that, A) I was not blind, and B) I was not being pursued by bees, yet. Nobody wants to be pursued by bees, and that includes me. I also realized I should definitely leave before that happens. So, I got back on the bus once it was ready to go.

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I also noticed that once the bus cruised back into Xinbei proper, the bus didn’t go in a reverse route of what had taken me to Mister Beekeeper’s apiary.  I eventually learned that the 215 is a circular — not linear — route. Because, it eventually passed where I originally boarded, Hohai University.

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I later learned that the Neruda’s weird little tome was not on Kindle, but somebody scanned their copy as a PDF. Kudos to whoever did that!

This is Huangtu

There is an intersection in Changzhou’s northern Xinbei district sharing a map line with Jiangyin. The B1 bus turns here to pass the Trina International School  and end its route at the Changzhou’s northern rail station.  Make a wrong turn at this stop light, and you end up in Wuxi. Jiangyin, while an independent city, is actually part of Wuxi.  There are a few times I have crossed this red light border intentionally to see what was there.  One time, it was to see the town of Huangtu.

This is a very small town between Changzhou’s Xinbei district and Jiangyin’s dowtown “proper.” The intercity bus from Changzhou North Station makes local stops here. The bus from the downtown / Tianning station does not. That’s more of an express, and frankly, if you are going to downtown Jiangyin, it’s always better to take the express and not a local. It’s a faster ride. So what does Huangtu have to offer?

Not much, actually. However, that is more of a “city” point of view. And, it’s not meant to be condescending. It’s more of a statement that you can’t find a lot to be a “foreign tourist”  about here.

The local temples are actually places of worship — not places that charge admission and give you commemorative ticket. But, again, that’s the point in a way.  “Real” is a relative term. What applies to cities doesn’t apply to towns. “Real” also means “people live here” and “local.”  It’s also an interesting contrast. Appreciating and understanding urban China means also appreciating and understanding “small town” China. Maybe that’s just the key to understanding China in general? Maybe that’s the key to understanding the complicated dynamics of any country?

This post originally appeared on www.realjiangsu.com. 

A Newb’s Introduction to Dining in Jiangyin

img_20161211_193844While visiting Jiangyin either on business or as a tourist, there are a few western restaurants to consider eating at. While the city is smaller than Changzhou and belongs to Wuxi, Jiangyin is highly developed and quite modernized. There is one spot in the downtown area that seems to be central to dining and nightlife. Yijian Road has a lot of bars and restaurants.

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The biggest draw in the area seems to be a German establishment, Hofbrauhaus and a few others.

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While Yijian Road seems to be a culinary hub, these are not the only places to eat when visiting Jiangyin. Take, for example, St. Marco. This European eatery is just down Chaoyang Road from Huangshanhu Park. That park, and the others near in close proximity, are the more well known Jiangyin attractions. People on a day trip from Changzhou could pair visiting those parks with eating at St. Marco. As stated earlier, these are likely not the only decent places to eat in this city, but this was only my third visit, and I’m still figuring out where things are there.

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Ni Hao, Jiangyin

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Never judge a city by it’s Greyhound Bus depot. This is common sense in America, partly because most private, long distance coach stations are in the poorer, more dangerous parts of town. Back in the 1990s, I got hustled at the one in Pittsburgh. It’s also fair to think that, in China, one should also have the same attitude. Not about getting robbed, of course, but that bus terminals are not usually in the most convenient areas. I realized that while in Jiangyin. It felt like I walked for half an hour without seeing anything remotely interesting. Something similar happened the first time I went to Wuxi, too.

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Jiangyin is a satellite city controlled by Wuxi.  An apt comparison would be Liyang; it has its own municipal government, but Liyang is still under control of Changzhou. Jiangyin borders Xinbei in the east, but the city’s actual downtown is about an hour away by long distance coach. Once I finally began to reach the city center on foot, I found myself falling under the city’s charm.

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The first thing I saw was Xingguo Pagoda. This looks to be the remains of what was once temple grounds. If a visitor looks to the top of the tower, it’s damaged. There were a few other Buddhist attractions, like a stone pillar, but the place is now basically a walled-in public park.

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From there, I found my way to a Confucian temple. The area before the actual temple entrance looked like a flea market, and those are just things I can’t help myself with. Luckily, I didn’t let myself buy anything. Yet, now I know where it is, and I will likely being back for a closer inspection and will probably end up buying a backpack full of old junk at some point. The temple itself was rather small.

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Eventually, I ended up on the Renmin Road walking street. If comparing Jiangyin to Changzhou, this would be a little like Nandajie. It seems to be the commercial center of the center. However, walking through the area, it actually felt nicer to walk around there than Changzhou’s shopping pedestrian street. Partly, it seems, because Zhongshan Park is part of the whole complex, and a public art lover could spend a lot of time there snapping photos of statues.

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Essentially, Jiangyin’s city center feels as developed and as cosmopolitan as Wuxi and Changzhou — just on a smaller scale. Getting to there is, as stated earlier, an hour by intercity bus from Changzhou’s downtown station. There is no train station here. And, it’s best for a newcomer to do a little research in advance and take a taxi from the coach terminal to a predetermined destination. It was roughly 19 to 20 RMB when I decided to call it a day and not hike back there from the city center.

I also realized, in terms of this blog, that places outside Changzhou are fair game, so long as this city is a starting point. So, expect a little more usage out of the travel category in the future. One thing is certain; I know i will be going back to explore Jiangyin in a little more depth, now.

Nevermind the Signs

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It was toward the end of July, the equivalent to the ‘san-fu’ period of the lunar calendar — the hottest days of the year. In China the heat was even more oppressive than usual.

–Qian Zhongshu, from Fortress Besieged

Rather ironically, I read these lines for the first time towards the end of July, where it was so hot I didn’t want to go outside. I decided to start reading a book instead of sweating to death while looking for things to blog about. I am sure I could have possibly found something that agreed with the weather, like swimming pools to cool off in. However, I’m not a swimming pool or beach sort of guy. It’s just not in my personality to put on a bathing suit.

I may not be a water person, but I’m still curious at heart. So, I still know where few places to cool off in the summer. Many people know of the man-made beach in Zhonglou’s Qingfeng Park. This is perhaps the most easy to get to when you live in Changzhou. There is another, but it’s either a car or ebike trip. This one is also not in Changzhou, it’s in Jiangyin, which is Wuxi’s northern satellite city. The place is Huangshihu Park 璜石湖公园, and it is not far beyond the city line Jiangyin shares with Xinbei.

Satellite view of where the park should be.
Satellite view of where the park should be. Notice the lake is missing.

Large parts of the park is a work in progress. If you were to visit here, you would see large fields of dirt likely to be further ecologically developed. There are also, however, a lot of bike paths and walkways around a rather large artificial lake with a sandy beach. I say “artificial” because if you look for the place on Baidu’s maps app under “satellite view,” it simply isn’t there. Also, a temple shares the park land, but the doors have never, ever been open to the public each time I have visited.

No swimming!
No swimming!

At the moment, the main draw is the lake’s sandy beach. A lot of Chinese families frequent the place with their children. You also see couples hanging out together, but you never see sunbathers. That is a concept quite alien to most Chinese people. The biggest irony, however, are the the “no swimming” signs. There are plenty of them, and seemingly all the park patrons ignore them. Even more, there is a guy there selling flotation gear that absolutely encourages swimming.

Go swimming!
Go swimming!

A Journey to Jiangyin

Taking this picture on this side of the sign means I’m still in Changzhou!

Wuxi is closer to Changzhou than what one might think. I know this because I accidentally found myself there, and I hadn’t taken a bus or train. I was on my eBike — yes, my eBike. As I was looking around me, I noticed that “常州“ was dropped from company names. Each time I passed a factory, I saw either “无锡“ or “江阴.”  How is this possible?

Well, let me clarify. I was in Jiangyin, and it’s separate municipal government from Wuxi proper. It’s much the same way that Liyang is a separate city but is still part of Changzhou. Plus, Jiangyin’s eastern city limits touch Xinbei in a way that if you take the B1 bus north, get of at a certain stop, and cross the street, you are no longer in Changzhou. The stop, by the way, is two beyond the Global Harbour shopping mall, right after the route turns towards the Trina International School and Changzhou North Station.

A tediously slow local ride from Xinbei to Jiangyin.

Knowing this, I returned there knowing that an Intercity coach line has a stop there.  Since I had nothing to do today, I thought I’d hop on the bus and see how long it would take to get to downtown Jiangyin.  I also learned that there are two types of Intercity busses that leave Changzhou regularly.

The one I took to Jiangyin was local. It basically stops every two kilometers or so. This bus would be a challenge for some foriegners; some basic knowledge of Chinese is needed. When you board, the driver asks na li?  You tell him, and he tells you the amount of the fare. I misheard and just shoved a 10 RMB note into the slot. Five people who boarded after me then crowded around to pay me back. I had paid their way by accident.

During the ride, there were several times I wanted to get off. Jiangyin has a Wanda Plaza, for example.  Other times, I saw I was passing cultural sites as I monitored the trip on my phone via Baidu Maps. In the end, I mentally marked those places for later trips and decided to just go all the way to the coach station.

Turns out, it looked to be in a rather uninteresting part of town. The station itself looks very strange — as if covered in an alien metallic web. I walked around, bought a map, and looked at the time. I had left a little too late. So, I just bought another bus ticket back.

This is where I learned about the other variety of Intercity bus. Turns out, if you buy a ticket inside the station, it’s for the express, and that takes you to Changzhou’s downtown bus station. It’s a lot quicker, too.

Jiangyin’s weird looking bus terminal.