HERE is much to enjoy in Wuhan, the enchanting capital of Hubei province. This industrial megacity, burgeoning with a population of 8.3 million, is actually an aggregate of three towns, Hankou, Wuchang and Hanyang. Wuhan is the business center of inland China where phenomenal urban growth is played out on a daily basis.
It is astounding to realize that Wuhan, with a 3,500 year history, is one of 166 cities with population exceeding one million (compared to just nine cities in the U.S.). It is 400 miles west of Shanghai, at the confluence of the Yangtze and Han rivers.
With Citroen, Honda and Nissan spewing out product at a feverish pace, it is no wonder that auto engineering is a popular subject at local colleges and trade schools. It has become the Detroit of China. Also significant are the iron and steel, optic electronics and hi-tech industries in Wuhan.
I compare notes in park
While there are excellent hotels to choose from, we stayed at the deluxe Shangri-La at 700 Jianshe Avenue, Hankou, phone (027) 8580 9885, www.shangri-la.com. It’s the largest 5 star international hotel in the province. The 507 guestrooms include 22 suites, 80 Horizon Club rooms (a private hotel within the hotel) and 13 furnished apartments for extended visits. This property defines luxury.
Riverside Park is a wonderful place to relax. A colorful International Tourism Festival is held in September. We passed a woman praying to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.
The Guiyuan Buddhist Temple, built in 1658, is one of four major Zen temples in the province. You will marvel at the 500 statues of monks, each one different.
Riverside Avenue is packed with show bars and restaurants, including the Hot & Crazy Sugar Daddy Coffee Shop. The Wholesale Market is crowded with numerous shops offering all types of merchandise.
Our guide, Michael, said that businessmen prefer to have dinner not at home but in restaurants. "A good chef," he said, "is not one who cooks good, but who can be creative and change the menu every week to attract repeat customers."
According to Michael, a good formula for a successful restaurant is one that has a 5 star rating, a 4 star parking lot and 3 star prices.
For an awesome view of the Yangtze we went to the Yellow Crane Tower atop Snake Hill in Wuchang. It is one of the three most famous towers in southern China. Over the centuries scholars would compose thousands of pieces of prose and poetry on the inside walls.
Originally built in 223, destroyed many times, the Yellow Crane Tower was restored in 1985. On the evenings of public holidays the tower shines with brilliant colorful lights.
The Hubei Provincial Museum shows some 200,000 historical artifacts and cultural relics that are 2400 years old. These include the oval shaped Chime Bells. Excavated from being buried underground for two millennia, the 65 chime bells and 32 chimes stones remarkably still maintain their perfect sound. Music and dance performances with the bronze Chime Bells are presented daily.
From Wuhan you can select six different tours covering Hubei province, including of course the ever popular Three Gorges Tour. For travel assistance contact:
Museum concert with chime bells
Goddess of Mercy
Ritz Tours, 463 Lexington Av., New York, NY. Phone 212 286-1096. www.ritztours.com.
Hubei Overseas Tours, Wuhan, phone 0086-27-8578 1622, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.hotours.com.cn.