Changzhou may not be on most people’s radar as a leisure destination, which is surprising because the city truly offers something for everyone.
Less than an hour’s drive from the hotel, the hills combine natural scenery, Taoist culture, forests and revolutionary history.
Whether you’re looking for a soothing retreat or home-away-from-home family fun, the refined comforts and impeccable service at Shangri-La Hotel, Changzhou guarantees an enjoyable stay nestled in the lap of luxury. Located in the up-and-coming Wujin district, the hotel is far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre to offer a relaxed ambience, while providing easy access to some of the best nearby scenic spots as well as the theme parks for which the city is known.
However, with the mouth-watering variety of gastronomic goodies on offer — international delights at Café Long, authentic and fresh Japanese delicacies at Nishimura and contemporary takes on Huaiyang and Cantonese cuisine at Shang Palace — you might be tempted to stay in the hotel, which although perfectly understandable would be a shame, as you’d miss out on all the fun.
Changzhou Dinosaur Park is the most popular of the city’s many theme parks, because even if you are accompanying kids who are too young for the white-knuckle, head-first, face-down, twist-and-shake of Dinoconda, there is plenty to keep them occupied. They’ll have lots of fun – from discovering the skeletons and fossils of 50 different dinosaur species in the museum to enjoying a lively bird show and the Rain Forest Adventure Playground.
Joyland, which takes its inspiration from popular video games such as World of Warcraft and Starcraft, has become a gathering place for Chinese cosplayers, so there’s the opportunity to dress the part should you desire. The theme park consists of several zones set around the Fairy Lake, which serves as the main performance area, and has cutting-edge water rides and roller coasters, including the “Clouds of Fairyland” skyloop and the “Sky Scraper” flying coaster.
Yancheng, surrounded by three rings of town walls and moats, dates back 3,000 years and is the oldest and most well preserved town in China. Today, Yancheng is part of a theme park based on flourishing Chinese culture during the Spring and Autumn periods. There is also an amusement park with a couple of 3D motion rides and a log ride. In the evenings, the park becomes a lights-and-performance spectacle.
Next door to the theme park is Yancheng Wildlife World, which is home to a variety of animals, including wolves, lions and tigers that you can feed with live chickens (an activity not for the squeamish). Giraffes are more feeding-friendly for young kids, as they prefer carrots, and there are ostriches, kangaroos and a variety of birds and reptiles to see.
A Walk in the Park
If you prefer a more sedate experience, there are plenty of pretty parks to enjoy. Hongmei Park was once part of the nearby temple grounds; today, it is one of the city’s largest and most attractive parks. As its name suggests, it is home to plum trees, as well as a large lake where you can rent boats. Over 1,350 years, Tianning Temple has undergone many restorations, but the most recent addition of a new pagoda grabs attention, as it is said to be the tallest in the world. You can climb or take an elevator to the top for a bird’s-eye view of the city and ring the giant bell for good fortune. There are also some enlightening exhibits on display on different levels.
The Northern Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo (960-1127) obviously knew a good thing when he saw it, as he chose to live out his final years in Changzhou. Yizhou Pavilion Park commemorates the place on the Jinghang Canal, where he used to disembark when he visited the city before retiring there. Today, it makes a pleasant place to while away an hour or two.
Changzhou is hosting the 8th China International Flower Expo from 28 September to 27 October 2013 on the west bank of beautiful Taihu Lake, just a 15-minute drive from the hotel. The expo has given the area a new lease on life, and the specially constructed Nature Pavilion and surrounding facilities will be part of a new recreation and wedding area once the flowers have faded and the exhibitors have returned home.
Further on from the lake is the Maoshan scenic area. Less than an hour’s drive from the hotel, the hills combine natural scenery, Taoist culture, forests and revolutionary history. From the temple perched atop the highest hill there are some spectacular views of the surrounding area, including an impressive panoramic view of the giant statue of Lao Zi.