Tag Archives: Metro

Allegedly Metro

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Oh, and you can do all your shopping at Metro! They have a lot of western items!

— An enthusiastic, but misinformed Xinbei expat to a Wujin newbie.

As I have pointed out before, nothing can be more infuriating than living in Wujin and being told that Xinbei is the center of Changzhou. Most of the time, this advice is well meaning, but it doesn’t keep it from being factually wrong. This is so much the case with Metro. When you live in Wujin — especially College Town — Metro is just a far off wonderland that just isn’t practical. Why? Given rain and traffic, it can take up to an hour to get there on the B1 — one way.

Then, there are the rumors that Wujin will eventually get its own Metro. These whispers have been going on for years now, and when I lived down in the College Town, I depressingly chalked up to wishful thinking more than anything else. However, there has been real progress, as of late, towards Wujin expats finally getting something they really want. Now, there is a real location for the new Metro.

The B1 BRT bus route passes it. Its in a new and unfinished shopping development called CoCo City. This is about one stop after / before Wujin’s Injoy mall, depending on whether you are going north or south. The last time I rode by on my eBike, the location was empty and undeveloped. All you could see was the blue and yellow METRO store marquee. I snapped a picture of it and sent it to a friend with lots of Changzhou experience. Even she didn’t know about it.

Later, a separate friend of mine passed it more recently. She currently lives in College Town and was headed north on other business. She, too, was tired of having to take the bus for an hour just to get something simple like bagged salad mix. She told me that she asked around and couldn’t find an answer to when it a grand opening was planned. She even tasked a Chinese friend to call Xinbei’s Metro for further information. Even they didn’t know anything.

So, as of this writing, Wujin is still getting a Metro. You can actually visit and see where it will be, but there seems to be no hard evidence as to when a grand opening will actually come to pass. For a Wujin expat, this is both tantalizing and extremely frustrating. It’s like dangling something nice in front of somebody, but still keeping agonizingly out of easy reach.

Nevermind The Gorilla

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Construction changes everything in Changzhou very quickly, but nothing has been more of a disruptive change than the ongoing subway / metro / underground construction. For those who don’t know, this project is slated for completion in a couple of years. It’s not going away anytime soon. Last I heard, Line 1 will be done in 2019, and Line 2 will be coming in 2020. Hundreds of expats, business execs, and English teachers will likely have passed through Changzhou by the time this ultimate urban convenience will be finished.

One of the biggest casualties has been Wenhuagong 文化宫 aka “Culture Palace” downtown and near Hongmei Park 红梅公园. Downtown’s Christian Church is nearby, as is a Confucian Temple and the antique / collector’s market. Right now, the the square is surrounded by construction barriers, and during the day, you hear lots of excavators and heavy industrial machines hard at work.

When I first came to Changzhou in 2014, it looked like a largely empty city square. with a few benches, a water fountain that was never really turned on, and a Chinese flag flapping in the breeze. It was a deceptive sight. The bustle of Cultural Palace was completely subterranean. Changzhou has a number of sunken retail spaces. These are underpasses beneath the streets. Downtown has them, Xinbei has them, and to weaker extent, so does Hutang in Wujin.

The one beneath Wenhuagong / Cultural Palace seemed particularly labyrinthine at first. Even during the day, this place seemed dark with splashy neon advertising boutique shopping. There was even in McDonald’s down there. There was also a circular — but sunken one level down — outdoor food court.    And then, everything changed seemingly overnight.

One Saturday morning, I tried going to the McDonald’s for a Sausage Egg McMuffin; the fast food joint was dark with a bicycle D-lock on the door. . But, then again, that wasn’t the only thing that was a little off putting. Not only had all the shops been vacated, but somebody smashed all the windows, and shards of glass littered the floor. Honestly, I wondered if some sort of riot had erupted that led to mass looting. The place looked that destroyed. A week later, access to the underground shopping area had been completely sealed off.

Many months later, I learned this had all been part of the planned subway construction. Wenhuagong / Culture Palace will be the underground’s downtown central station. It will be were Lines 1 and 2 will intersect and where commuters will interchange. When it’s completed, the place will be likely be flashier, modern, and high tech as ever. Still, it will never be what it once was, and that’s not a complaint. It’s just an observation. Nothing will ever be what it once was. I also do not have many photos of what the place used to be. I just have a picture of a pissed off gorilla guarding a door at the bottom of set of stairs. Again, another part of Changzhou has faded into oblivion in the name of urban development. And honestly, like before, that’s not a complaint either. It’s just an observation.

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This is an old photo. Currently, Culture Palace / Wenhuagong / 文化宫 looks even more like an excavated construction pit.