PWD Register

Until 1905, Shijiazhuang was nothing more than an archipelago of small towns and villages a few hours south of Beijing. Largely due to the major north-south and east-west rail lines that now connect in the city, the Shijiazhuang of today is one of China's largest industrial centers and the capital of Hebei province. But although the municipality's total population has now reached 9 million (3 million of which are urban residents), the region is still steeped in the unmistakable atmosphere of small-town life.

Climatically speaking, living in Shijiazhuang is nearly identical to living in Beijing. Summers are hot and humid, retaining their breezeless, balmy warmth after nightfall. There are four distinct seasons that change abruptly from one to the next in a matter of days. Though winters are undeniably cold, snow typically falls only a few days in the year. Springs and autumns boast the best weather, as strong gusts clear out the clouds and haze, leaving the sky fresh and blue. The spring winds are also known to bring the occasional sandstorm blowing in from the Gobi desert, a once- or twice-a-year occurrence. With the rapidity of Shijiazhuang's industrial development, the huge amount of coal burned made the city one of China's most polluted in terms of air quality. However, provincial programs are in place to remedy the situation, which is improving daily.

Shijiazhuang is the perfect place for the small-city urbanite. Those who choose to live in Shijiazhuang reap the benefits of being a 3-hour train ride from Beijing while avoiding all the extortionist prices, crowding and traffic congestion of a megalopolis. Property and housing rentals are also markedly cheaper. If you choose to go through a rental agency, you can easily find large, 100sqm and above flats for as little as RMB2, 000 per month.

The downside to Shijiazhuang is the limited selection of international nightlife and dining options. If traditional northeastern food does not appeal to you, Shijiazhuang is probably not the best place to put down roots C you will likely run through the list of available international restaurants very quickly; but those who enjoy affordable, savory jiaozi, hotpot, and local dishes will find themselves awash in starch and veggies. Interestingly enough, there is a wider range of clubs and pubs than restaurants in Shijiazhuang. Sunflower Bar is home ground to the city's art scene, regularly hosting literature events, open mic poetry readings and cocktail hours. Swing by 70s' Bar for loud, unpretentious rock 'n' roll fun.

Shijiazhuang is about as bicycle friendly as any major Chinese city. Bike lanes are provided (but not always respected) on major boulevards, and little back streets and lanes make great biking a little easier. Medium-sized roads are usually the most dangerous for bikers in Shijiazhuang. There are around 60 bus routes in the city costing RMB1 to RMB2 depending on quality of the bus. Taxi fares start at RMB5 for the first three kilometers and increase incrementally from there.

Residents of Shijiazhuang speak nearly standard Mandarin with only a trace of accent or dialect. Those who can understand putonghua will have no trouble in the city.

Newcomers may have a hard time finding imported groceries and ingredients. Jinwaitan Food & Drink Co., Ltd sells bagged coffee grounds and (sometimes) presses to use at home. Coffee machines are nearly impossible to find, but a quick train trip up to Beijing can remedy your caffeine cravings for good

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