Changsha is the ugliest and most ungainly Chinese city I have seen, which is saying something. Nonetheless for a food pilgrimage it is a serious rival for #1 spot in the world, perhaps surpassing Chengdu for the quality and novelty of its dishes. Very little effort is required to do well, and some of my best courses I had at the Hunan restaurant in the Sheraton, also the only time I saw an English-language menu.
Even at major hotels, hardly anyone speaks passable English, much less good English. But you can find many hanging portraits of Chairman Mao, who converted to communism in this city.
Carry an iPad, so you can look up and communicate the Chinese characters for “eggplant with orange chilies on top.”
When they set their minds to it, they can build towers at the rate of three stories a day.
The marginal value of entering a park here is high, as I stumbled upon card games, group exercise sessions, dance clubs, and performances of traditional music, all at higher rates than in most other Chinese cities I have visited. At the entrance to one I read on the sign: “Don’t sneeze into the face of others,” and also I was ordered to reject “feudal superstitious practices.”
The people seem…different. I feel the cab drivers often are on the verge of cackling, except when they are cackling. Then the verge disappears. The word “rollicking” frequently comes to mind, which of course is a sign you would not want to be governed by this province.