Xuzhou is a fairly large city with plenty of restaurants, shops and markets. It is part of the Jiangsu province and is situated quite closely to some major cities, such as Beijing, that you can get to by train. It can take up to 10 hours to get to some cities depending on which train you take (fast train or sleeper train). Two teachers last year went to Beijing for a weekend and had no problems, so I would definitely recommend travelling during your teaching period if you cannot afford the time after your placement. There are plenty of taxis in the city and we didn’t have any problems with using them.
Restaurants in Xuzhou
There are a wealth of restaurants in Xuzhou, many of which you will be shown. There is plenty of food on offer on the street, however, some people prefer not to eat street food due to risk of illness (personally I had no problems). The only street food I would recommend avoiding is that of the night market (a market I will get to later on).
There are plenty of fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and KFC, so if you do feel slightly homesick then you could visit these; they are generally cheaper than typical English prices, but more expensive than the average meal in China. If you cannot speak Chinese then you shouldn’t have a problem with ordering food from here as whenever they see someone western they automatically grab a menu with pictures.
On the topic of western food there are pizza huts; however, they are quite expensive compared to another pizza restaurant that we found. Once you have got to find your way around Xuzhou you will be able to find this easily. It is near Starbucks (yes there is a Starbucks) which is just round the corner from the Golden Eagle (a shopping centre I will mention later). You will be able to see the sign for the pizza restaurant, if I remember correctly it was called Baker’s Oven. We only found it in the final week of our placement hence why we only went once, if we had known about it beforehand I’m sure we would have gone again as it was fairly cheap and tasted just like pizza in England.
There is also another restaurant that serves western food; this is also just around the corner from the pizza restaurant and the Golden Eagle. I don’t know the official name of this one, we all called it ‘western pasta leisure’ as there are several random words on the front of the restaurant and these three looked close enough to each other to make an amusing sentence. The food here is a bit more expensive than some restaurants, but the food is nice, they do club sandwiches, special fried rice, chips and various other dishes, but it was definitely a nice place to eat as there is an outside eating area. You can also order a very large pitcher of beer here quite cheaply, which is what we tended to do if there were a few of us, although it tends to go quite quickly!
The Starbucks is split into two sections, there is the main part where you can order you food and drinks and it is made there. There is another section however, literally a 1 minute walk from the other, it is just that this has more seats (still inside) and has fountains on the outside. You can still order food and drink from here, but the drinks are made at the other one, so you have to wait just a little longer. The food and drinks are what you’d find in your average Starbucks back home. The language barrier here also isn’t an issue just like fast-food restaurants; they know the English names of all of the drinks. The prices here are the same as English prices.
There is also a dairy queen (an American ice cream shop), they do all sorts of ice-creams and sundaes, it is a nice place to sit down and cool down if it’s hot. The prices here are not too expensive. This is in the same area as the Starbucks, the pizza restaurant, the western restaurant and the Golden Eagle.
As well as many western restaurants, there are plenty of restaurants with Chinese or other cuisines. One restaurant I would definitely recommend is the duck restaurant. The name is in Chinese, but if you ask any managers in Xuzhou they’ll take you to it. The duck is carved in front of you and doesn’t compare to the crispy duck you get in England. The prices here are fairly cheap also when the total cost is spread between all of you. It was approximately 50 Yuan for a whole duck, which works out to about a fiver, and that would easily fill a few of you with a couple of starters as well.
There are also various barbeques that you will see. These are not like your typical English barbeque. You normally sit outside on tiny stools around a table with a black metal box that they fill with hot coals. You then order what food you want, normally different meats on a skewer or bread and you cook it yourself over the barbeque. They give you small dishes filled with spices also. It was at one of these barbeques that I had the opportunity to try the eye of a lamb. There was also a Taiwanese barbeque that we went to once that was quite similar but had very different food.
Another type of food that you will probably eat more than once is hotpot. The hot pot restaurant that we visited the most had a free nail salon at the front that you could visit, if you were eating there. The only thing they did there was paint your nails but it was still nice. Hotpot is very popular in Xuzhou, you sit around a table and order various foods, such as meatballs, bread, noodles etc and you cook it in boiling water in a pot that is integrated into the table. They pour spices into the water if you want them to. We normally had one pot spicy and one pot mild. they also have a little sauce station in the restaurant where you they have several bowls filled with various things so you can make you own mixture to make your own dipping sauce. If you pretend that it is someone’s birthday (or unless it is in fact someone’s birthday) they’ll put on a little show for you if you ask for it.
There are also some restaurants near the school office. There is one restaurant there that serves sweet and sour chicken (just like the English version) however, they don’t speak English here, so it is best to take someone Chinese who knows that they’re asking for. There is another restaurant on that road that we stumbled upon that has pictures on the wall. The owners can’t speak Chinese, but they understand you if you point to the pictures. The food in both of these restaurants is really quite cheap, averaging around 7-20 Yuan for a meal.
On this road there is also a couple of dumpling places. One of them is a restaurant where you can sit down and get your typical Chinese dumplings. They have many different types of dumplings in there, starting with the simple ones sucj as beef and pork, there are also more interesting ones such as dumplings with aubergine. This restaurant is really cheap and the dumplings are very filling. The other dumpling place is more of a takeaway. You’ll know which one it is as you’ll be able to see plenty of dumpling holders stacked up filled with dumplings being steamed. These dumplings are different to the ones in the restaurant and there is only one type of filling. They are equally amazing. They don’t speak English but if you use body language, i.e. pointing and using your hands to say how many holders-worth you want the, then you’ll cope perfectly fine. They were also very cheap.
Bars / nightclubs
There aren’t too many bars or nightclubs in Xuzhou. There are a couple of nightclubs and a couple of bars. The nightclubs to choose from are either 99 Bar, or Britain (England) Bar. They are definitely an experience. You pay to have a table (if you can get one) and you get drinks with that too. Depending on what you order the night can get expensive, but if you stick to beer then it’s not too bad pricewise. Both of the nightclubs are very similar in both music and price. You get your typical nightclub music mixed with English disco classics (including some favourites like ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘The Music Man’). These are both fairly easy to get to being close to the Golden Eagle.
One of the bars that we went to most often would be Hill Bar; however, this one is slightly more difficult to get to. If you ask one of the Chinese teachers to txt you directions to show the taxi driver, or go with some of them, then you won’t have any problem. The walls are covered with American paraphernalia and the music will more than likely be music you know. The beers here are slightly more expensive, cheapest being around 10 Yuan, but the people there are amazing company (you will definitely make a lot of friends there) and they always have the air conditioning on. You will meet a lot of other foreign teachers here either doing a summer placement or doing a year placement. Every week they also have ‘Tequila Tuesday’, where shots of Tequila are very cheap.
There is another bar that I heard of called Blue Marlin, we never went there because apparently there aren’t as many interesting people there. But I was told you can get beer from the pump there as opposed to the bottle. You will have to ask how to get here.
Instead of us going to nightclubs or bars we tended to stay in restaurants ‘til really late or we went to KTV. There are hundreds of KTVs in Xuzhou, and I’m guessing all over China. KTV is rather glamorous with hundreds of lights and neon lights in the rooms that you hire. You pay a flat fee for the room and then you can buy snacks and drinks there. It’s not too expensive when there’s a few of you, and you basically spend the night singing karaoke. You have your own room so you don’t have to sing in front of strangers’ the microphone also works wonders with your voice, so even the worst of singers seem to sound half decent. They have plenty of English songs on there as well as Chinese, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing any of the music.
Outside a gogo KTV
Shopping / Markets
There are plenty of places to go if you want to shop in Xuzhou. I will begin with shopping centres. There is the Golden Eagle shopping centre which has few restaurants inside and plenty of clothes shops, shoe shops, and general accessory shops. Close to there, also, is an arcade with bumper cars.
Nearby there is also Carrefour which is a supermarket, where you can buy almost anything you‘ll need. I will point out, razors and deodorant are expensive and there isn’t much to choose from. There are more shops near here that sell things such as tea and jewellery, although these tend to be quite expensive. (I bought tea as a present from inside the supermarket itself). I would advise getting fruit and veg from street vendors though as they tend to be cheaper. You will also be able to buy a mobile from here for you to use in China (something I’d recommend you buying – you may be able to get it from somewhere else cheaper, but I bought one here for £20).
There is a market literally just outside of Carrefour called Woman’s street. The name is self-explanatory, if you are a man or shopping for one, you will struggle finding anything here. You have to go down some stairs to this market and it is full of hundreds of small shops selling mainly clothes. There are some shops that sell shoes and some that sell makeup and jewellery. The things here are fairly cheap and you can always bargain. One thing I will say about shoes is that if you’ve got size 7 or above you will struggle finding shoes that fit. If you are a size 6 you might be ok but 5 or under you should be ok. They use European sizes for shoes.
The market where you will find anything ranging from clothes to electronics is the Night Market. They have plenty of shops and stalls here and there are also things for guys. You shouldn’t have a problem bargaining here. We went here several times as they always have new things in.
There is a Jade market that you can get to by taxi that sells, funnily enough, a lot of jade. There are lot of other little things that could be gifts there also. At the Jade market there is a shop that sells lots of paintings, they are around a fiver each, but they are really nice quality and make perfect presents. There is also an animal market near the Jade market, and I won’t suggest you go there unless you’ve got a strong stomach as a lot of the animals are kept in very poor conditions. Bargaining here is common.
There is one other market that is about a 5-10 minute walk from the Jade market. This market is under a roof so it’s a bit cooler in there. The only things you will find there are plenty of shoes and plenty of clothes. You may also find a few fans (which make nice gifts) and some other little knickknack gifts there. You can bargain with people here like every other market.
Meeting other foreigners
The best place to meet others, as I mentioned before, was Hill Bar. However, you do sometimes meet others in the most normal of places, such in the street or in a restaurant. You will always say ‘hello’ as you both have something in common, you’re both foreign.
By Amelia Lane (worked in Xuzhou summer 2011)