Life in Wuhan
Living in Wuhan
Wuhan is a HUGE city, so there is always somewhere new to go, even when you feel like you have seen everything. The city is divided into two main districts (Wuchang and Hankou) and another two bordering them (Hangyang and Jiangxia). Wuchang is the more ‘studenty’ area – there are about 6 big universities here, whereas Hankou is known for being a richer area, with lots of great shopping centres and clubs. Hangyang and Jiangxia are a bit further out, but many foreigners are living there and there are good transport links.
Wuhan itself is really conveniently placed for travel, as it has two big train stations and an airport. You can travel to Shanghai – 5hrs (fast train) 8hrs overnight sleeper ; Beijing- 10hrs ; Xi’an- 10 hrs ; Guilin- 10 hrs ; Shenzhen- (access to Hong Kong) 12hrs ; Yichang (3 Gorges Dam) 5hrs by bus.
Meeting other foreigners
There is a large number of foreigners in Wuhan and finding them isn’t hard. If you are lucky there will be at least one other place where you work. You can meet people anywhere though; the best places to head are bars/clubs where many foreigners go particularly at the weekends, such as Helens/Vox/Prison. But also a lot of teachers go to coffee chains such as Starbucks/Costa Coffee to mark or just spend the afternoon. It is easy to make friends and you will often be welcomed into a larger group. The best way to meet people is to just agree to go to/do everything during your first few weeks.
Grandma’s kitchen will often have other foreigners in it as it is very close to the 6 main universities.
There are many different options of travel, the most popular being by bus or taxi (though if you are feeling brave you can jump on the back of a motorbike!). All travel is cheap; a ten minute taxi drive will cost you about £1.30. However, it can be incredibly difficult to travel at certain times of the day, particularly between 3.30pm and 4.30pm when the taxis change drivers. For these times it is good to learn bus routes – they are also a lot cheaper! You can only buy singles and there is one fare for any distance journey – it is 2Y (or 20p). They don’t give change, so make sure you have the money on you or buy a pre-pay card from the supermarket. There is currently a subway being built which has two lines running already. When it is finished it will really be good for travel in Wuhan.
A good tip if you don’t speak any Chinese is to look out for address cards at any pubs/clubs/restaurants you like as they have the address written in Chinese on the back for you to show a taxi driver.
The food in Wuhan is one of my favourite things about living in China. It has a lot to offer and endless local delicacies. Wuhan is in an area of China known for its spicy food, so expect lots of hot dishes and learn how to say “not spicy” (Bù là) if you don’t like your food hot!
There are so many places to eat in Wuhan that while you are living here you will find your own favourites – most of mine are places that do not speak any English. To start with it may be sensible to stick to restaurants with English menus (rare) or menus with pictures and just point at what you want. Sometimes it is fun to go as a group and each choose one random dish from a Chinese menu… A bit of pot luck! But as you settle your Chinese friends and co-workers are likely to be more than happy to help you by writing dishes in Chinese or going with you for lunch/dinner and ordering.
Go by the Chinese rule: if there are a lot of people eating in a restaurant, it is probably pretty good.
Hu Bu Xiang This is somewhere that everyone living in Wuhan should visit at least once. It is a walking street with plenty of local snacks and foods. There is so much choice and a single serving of anything is really cheap (£1ish). It’s also incredibly easy to get here by bus or taxi, tell the taxi driver Hu Bu Xiang (pronounced Shang) and they will know where to go.
Korean Barbeque This is a good way to eat in a group. In the middle of the table there is a grill and the food is served uncooked for you to cook yourselves. You then wrap the meat with a lettuce leaf to eat it (A bit like a low-fi burger). There are also spices and sauces that you can add if you like it spicy.
Hot Pot Similar to Korean Barbeque, Hot Pot is better eaten in a group. You have a soup cooking in the middle of the table and then you order meat and vegetables which you cook yourself in the pot.
Ajisen Ramen This is a chain of Japanese restaurants which are really cheap, clean and tasty. Located all over the city.
M’s Kitchen If you want some Thai food this place is pretty good. There are also pictures on the menu, so if you don’t speak Chinese it is okay. It’s located near Hu Bu Xiang in the main shopping mall on Guang Gu.
Mr Mai’s – A coffee shop with amazing brownies and cakes. http://www.mrmai.com/ (you will often find the Chinese come here to practise their English, it is a great place to make friends and meet people).
There are obviously McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC which all have English menus that you can point at. But there are also a lot of other Western Restaurants in Wuhan besides there.
Gianos is where you will find the best pizza in Wuhan. It is pricey (compared to local Chinese food). There are three or more of them across Wuhan and they will deliver to Wuchang as well (Bear in mind it will take over an hour to get to you). The staff speak English and on their website you can find instructions for the taxi driver.
Aloha are a bit out the way but a good place to go to if you want to celebrate any Western holiday (Thanksgiving especially). Again check out their website for the menu and for taxi driver directions.
Grandmas Kitchen predominantly Mexican food but has good burgers and pizzas too. Located in the Chicony Mall on Luoyo Road (Chicony mall also has a Giaonos and many other restaurants). This place has the best milkshakes in China.
Helens/Burtons (see Drink) have reasonably priced western food, including salads and burgers. There are three Helens and one Burtons in Wuhan. Make sure you grab an address card while you are there as it is then easier to get there by taxi.
Show Coffee and Tea – Has a huge menu, with plenty of western food – pasta, steaks and burgers – but also lots of Chinese options. Located mainly in Wuchang, one in Guang Gu and one on Luoyo Road.
Cafe Eurasia – This place specialises in Eastern European food and is the only place I found where you can order a Kebab! This is close to Wuhan University, and in a street off of Luoyo Road.
Being a vegetarian in China can seem daunting at first when you don’t really know what is what and how to ask for things. You will quite often find that dishes that are marked as tofu often come with bits of pork in as well. I would recommend getting a Chinese friend to right “I don’t eat meat or fish” in characters for you to show restaurant staff. However, there are a lot of options for you, it will just take time to adjust. Learn the characters for meat and avoid them on menus. All western places have veggie options.
Another tip is to head to the main temple locations in Wuhan. They are in the Wuchang district both on Wuluo Lu. One is Red, the other yellow (you can’t miss them). Each of these temples has a vegetarian restaurant attached to it. Both of which are Chinese dishes with picture menus. Also, JJ’s Fusion Cafe on Guangba Lu has good vegetarian dishes.
The bars in Wuhan are generally very safe. They all have free of charge cloak rooms and are always a mix of foreigners and Chinese people. If you are musically inclined both Prison and The Toucan love live acts and are always interested in new acts – just talk to the bar staff. Vox also has musicians come and play, Owl City was there in November 2012. All the bar staff have a basic level of English.
Helens – There are three of these in Wuhan and they are very popular with both foreigners and local students. Definitely want to head here if you fancy celebrating a western holiday (Halloween was PACKED). They do good food as mentioned in the Food section. Also good for (for the girlies) are Wednesday nights which are ladies nights! Unlimited cocktails for £3. They also do sheesha. It is a good place to start the night, but arrive early as once the tables are gone it is impossible to find somewhere to sit.
Toucan – The toucan is the local Irish bar, so the obvious choice to go to to celebrate St Patricks Day. It is a bit out the way (located inside the Holiday Inn Riverside), but has a really great atmosphere and is less crowded than Helens too. A good place to watch the football/rugby. There is also free darts/pool and a football table. Drinks are more expensive than other places, but depending when you go there is often free BBQs in the beer garden (Sunday 4pm). They have a lot of English beer and St. Paddy’s day here is fun. They also do a full on Christmas dinner if you don’t want noodles on Christmas day. Hanyang District, Wu Sheng Road.
Brussels – Is a belgium bar. It is pretty small but this adds to the relaxed atmosphere of the place, and it possible to get a table outside next to the lake. The range of beers here is pretty good. It is quieter than Helens/Toucan but again is a good place to predrink and it does get quite busy. There are also fireworks here on New Years.
Burtons – Burtons is very similar to Helens. It has good western food, and lots of deals. (And buckets (literally) of alcohol.) Near the student area so expect to make lots of student friends.
Vox – one of the busiest bars in Wuchang. It is also has a proper place to dance (unlike many other clubs in Wuhan). The DJ music (from 10/11pm) is hit and miss, but there are live music acts nearly every night which can be fun (see their website for more listings). You can meet a lot of foreigners here and also when you are tired of drinking/dancing head outside for some great street food!
Prison – is underneath Vox (come out and turn left). It is more chilled out than Vox, but there is a really nice atmosphere and it is popular with lots of foreign teachers in Wuhan. The drinks are cheap (about £1 for a bottle of beer).
Sawa – is located opposite Prison. It is a sheesha bar with cheap drinks and really good food. The staff are really nice and often have foreigners working there.
Vox, Prison and Sawa are all located together off Lumo Road.
Soho, Song Song and Muse – are all located near each other in Hankou. The drinks here are more expensive and there are mainly full of local Chinese people. In these bars you can hire out a table and then you have a ‘waiter’ who will bring you drink/food (which can be fun for birthdays). It isn’t necessary to get a table though, Chinese locals are welcoming and it is likely you will be invited to join someone and make new friends, often with free drinks thrown in. It is really popular to play dice drinking games (similar to Perudo). There are often live acts which range from good to hilariously bad. Hankou District, Yanjiang dadao.
Sugars –The owner is called “Sugar” and he is incredibly friendly, often he will buy street food for a whole table and offer free drinks/drinks deals. It is a good place to pre drink, especially when it is warmer as you can sit outside and enjoy watching TV on the big screen (Chinese XFactor makes a change from football, although they do play matches here too). It’s best for beer or cocktails… And if there is a cocktail you fancy which is not on the menu, ask – he will let you go behind the bar and make it!! Hakou District, Yanjiang dadao.
Blue Sky Cafe – Is a bar located a short taxi ride from Brussels. It is really nice, with an area outside with heaters and an inside area with poles… for the adventurous. It is popular with western business men (as it is located right in the business area). It can be a good place to celebrate holidays as it has themed nights and also some good drinks deals. It is also a good place to eat and the staff speak pretty decent English. Hankou, Jianshe dadao.
Queens – Queens is very similar to Soho / Muse / Song Song, however, it has a bouncing dance floor. Enough Said. Wuchang District, Luoshi Beilu.
The most popular thing to do in Wuhan during your free time is shopping. There are countless shopping centres and huge malls to visit.
Guang Gu – This place is HUGE. It is a mixture of every shop you can think of and also an area which has lots of smaller shops (where it is okay and you should haggle). This is a nice place to spend the afternoon and it can also be fun to watch young Chinese couples getting their professional photos done outside shops in the fake Spanish section of the mall. There is also a cinema here showing films in English.
Han Street – is a newly built street of shops alongside the river. The area is really beautiful and they play English music down the street. There are a mix of shops from Uniqlo to H&M, Zara and M&S. There is also a Madame Tussauds here and the largest cinema in China.
Computer City – A massive 8-floor electronics department store. Luoyu Lu, Hongshan District
Jianghan Road – is a shopping street in Hankou. It is longer than the famous East Nanjing Road in Shanghai. What is cool is at night time all the side streets also become filled with street vendors where you can buy virtually anything from clothes/films/food.
Markets – Are a good way to shop cheaply and locally. You can find food markets and clothes markets all over Wuhan. Night markets can also be a lot of fun, combined with eating street food. Most universities will have a fruit and veg market on campus and if you’re not on a campus your teachers will direct you to the nearest one. Hankou has a great night market on Zhongshan Dadao which is open from around 5 – 10pm and is full of shoes, clothes, housewares, and snacks.
In terms of buying food, local supermarkets and food markets have nearly everything you need. However, Wuhan does have western supermarkets. Carrefore, Metro, Walmart and Theatre all stock almost everything you need. Metro is in between Wuchang and Hankou, bus 709 takes you there from the Wuchang area. Carrefore’s are all over the city. Guang Gu (above) has one and there are 2 big ones in Hankou district. Walmart is on a busy shopping street in Hankou, (Zhongshan Dadao). It can be reached by the 608 bus from the Wuchang area. There is also a Walmart in Wuchang, which can be reached by the 804 bus. Theatre has the best and biggest selection of western produce. There is one in Hankou at the K11 Walking Street and one in Wuchang about a 20minute walk from the Guang Gu centre.
Yellow Crane Tower – This tower is the biggest tourist attraction in Wuhan. It has a lovely view over Wuhan and the Yangtze River. There are also gardens to walk through and a huge bronze bell you can pay to ring for good luck. If you have time you can visit the market just outside.
East Lake (Donghu) – The lake is a great place to spend a warm day. It is huge – if you are arranging to meet people at the “entrance” be sure you specify which one as there are many! You can rent bikes/golf carts to travel around it and there are places you can swim if you are brave.
University Culture Days – A big two day festival where countries set up stands that showcase foods/music/clothes/souvenirs from the area. There are people from all over the world here so it is a fantastic opportunity to make new friends! What makes this even more fun is that you can buy a fake passport and get a stamp from each countries stall, along with a message in the language.
By Emma Toll (worked in Wuhan 2010-2011) and Lauren van der Linden (worked in Wuhan 2012-2013).