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Hunan's Spicy Centre

Hunan's Spicy Centre
 
     
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See and do

A thoroughly modern Chinese city, what Changshalacks in looks it makes up for with its culture, food and people – including Mao Zedong. The Communist trail picks up at Hunan No. 1 Teacher Training School, where devotees can tour the dormitory and study rooms Mao graced as a young revolutionary. A more auspicious educational site is the YueluAcademy, a Confucian school established over a millennia ago. There is also the Hunan Provincial Museum (+86 731 8451 4630).Its most celebrated exhibit is a mummy - “The Marquis of Dai” - remarkably well preserved after 2100 years of slumber in a Han Dynasty coffin.

Best bites

Eating is the singular highlight of a trip to Hunan’s capital. Xiang cai, as the chilli-laden local cuisine is known, is one of the most celebrated in China. Huogongdian (+86 731 5817 591), with several branches around town, is the spot to enjoy spicy cuisine. If size is everything, the West Lake Restaurant (+86 731 8425 8188), with 5000 seats, has been named the world’s largest by the Guinness Book of Records. For Western fare, you’ll find excellent “choco lattes”, brownies and homemade apple pie at The Fifth Tone (+86 731 8880 5303), a popular, American-run hangout just off Xinmin Lu.

After dark

Sarah Campbell, American manager of The Fifth Tone recommends Folk Bar (+86 135 7480 4377) on Jiefang Lu for its “friendly, western clientele, low-key cocktails and imported beers”. For live music, head across the street to Dayfly Club (+86 731 2291 097), a buzzy venue hosting everything from local jazz acts to visiting foreign bands.

Top shops

Pedestrianised Huangxin Lu is the place to go for department stores selling big name international brands. Running parallel, the shops and boutiques of Taiping Jie hawk minority products and souvenirs. Connecting the two, trendy Jiefang Lu is where local hipsters shop.

Sleepover

The Sheraton Changsha Hotel (www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton), opened in 2007, is the city’s choicest stopover, boasting large, well-appointed rooms, excellent service, a celebrated Italian restaurant and 2000 square metres of conferencing space. Another spot to consider is the Crown Plaza City Centre (www.ichotelsgroup.com),offering comprehensive facilities for business travellers.

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