Passport in hand, I’m ready to travel! 3

Relief panel of Tujia and Miao culture outside a nearly completed  government building in QianZhou

Relief panel of Tujia and Miao culture outside a nearly completed government building in QianZhou

JISHOU, HUNAN — In the eight years since I came here, the city has grown in leaps and bounds.

Previously, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) was near the central business district, about 20 minutes from campus. But Jishou is included in the national development of western China (that is, west of the Beijing-Shanghai-Hong Kong corridor), so many of the government offices have moved or will move to brand spanking new quarters in QianZhou, south of Jishou proper.

Really, to be completely accurate, I should say QianZhou has grown in leaps and bounds. While Jishou expanded some, it’s constrained by natural borders: a river running west to east and mountains roughly perpendicular to the river. Tearing down the CBD and erecting new buildings is not feasible, especially when it’s easier to build on land to the south.

So, the PSB moved to new spacious — no, cavernous — offices on the southern perimeter of QianZhou, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from campus, roughly twice as far away as the old facilities. The area is so new that taxi drivers don’t even know where it is. I had to help him find it, since I’ve been there twice already.

My passport was all ready with a shiny new residence permit, and the officer I had been dealing with reminded me to follow all the laws of China this year. I wasn’t aware I had broken any, but I suppose she’s trying to impress upon me not to go visit any more schools, or even look like I’m working outside the university.

Coming back to campus, I took the bus, marveling at how the city has expanded so quickly in just eight years. Back then, the land the new PSB offices sit on was weeds, trees and grass. Maybe some people were living there. It’s been so long since I took that road to visit Fenghuang, now connected to Jishou by a superhighway, that I’ve forgotten exactly what was there.

Now the main north-south road is lined with restaurants, shops, big office buildings, banks, car dealerships, highrise apartments, and massively imposing government buildings, some still under construction.

Even the bus was new. It took me a few moments to realize it was an electric bus — eerily quiet as it pulled away from bus stops, and with much better brakes than the diesel ones.

Sometime this fall, Jishou will be linked to China’s ever-expanding high speed rail system. A spur is now under construction linking Huaihua to the south to Zhangjiajie to the north, with a possible extension across the Yangtze River into Hubei province. Huaihua is already connected to Changsha and Shanghai to the east by high speed rail. The western line will eventually terminate in Kunming in Yunnan province.

The new trains will not stop at Jishou’s tiny railway station north of the CBD. A new station is being constructed in (you guessed it) QianZhou. Service is supposed to begin in October.

Until then, I have two choices to get to Changsha — motorcoach (5 hours) or standard train (7-9 hours). I prefer the coach, so tomorrow I will be in Changsha, and Sunday I’ll fly to Beijing, where I’ll stay overnight in the airline hotel for an afternoon flight to Chicago. I’m flying Hainan Airlines, a new experience. Details to follow.

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3 thoughts on “Passport in hand, I’m ready to travel!

  1. Reply Naciholidays Sep 8,2016 4:22 pm

    I think you should go to Vietnam to visit Ha Long Bay, a world natural wonder Son Doong or dynamic.

  2. Reply J Dec 16,2016 4:30 am


    I am thinking about teaching in Jishou. I never been to China before and I was told that newbies like me should consider living in the big cities, 1st tier, 2nd tier first etc. How big is Xiangxi (including the surrounding cities)? I’m from an average city in the US like Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Detroit etc, and I am wondering if I will survive in Jishou. Thank you in advance.

  3. Reply eljefe Dec 17,2016 5:49 pm

    If you think you will desperately miss Western style food, then Xiangxi will be a disappointment. Right now, we have two KFCs and a Pizza Hut, and a couple of “Western style” places that are more like Western food with Chinese characteristics. Jishou is also pretty isolated as far as transportation is concerned, so getting to and from the USA is an all-day affair. Living near a major city, or an international hub, would speed things up quite a bit. OTOH, air pollution here in Jishou is minimal, and it’s not as jam-packed crowded as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. If you’re wanting something more cosmopolitan, then a provincial capital like Chengdu or Changsha would be a good middle ground. Population of Jishou is about 400,000. Changsha, 9 million. Beijing 25 million (maybe more). It really depends on how much of an immersion you want into Chinese life. Jishou has few foreigners, so you will be forced to integrate into the local community more than in a larger city with thousands of expats.

    I’d say give it a try for a year, and see what happens.

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