Where should I live? Yulin, Zongnan, Zongbei, Ximianqiao, Moziqiao, Jiuyanqiao? After a few years as a renter in Chengdu, you're sure to be an expert on at least a couple corners of the city. Residents of Chengdu describe the neighborhoods they call home—the ups, the downs, and the how-to-get arounds. Part 1
Jesse Levine, 27, English teacher (U.S.)
Where do you live? Center of city, Daye Lu. Why did you choose to live there? The school had a cute studio apartment here and they handled the details. I also liked the pastel-colored couch. Who are your neighbors? The building complex is both a hotel and apartments. Most of the residents look like 30-year-olds with some money. There are a fair number of pregnant women and some babies. Foreigner presence is pretty limited. What are the best parts of living in your 'hood? It's a variety show on my block. I live above some kind of huge market. The noodles they serve at the night market are the best I've had in Chengdu. There is a seafood place where two people can do very well for RMB35. Starbucks is pretty relaxing to sit in occasionally. What makes you want to move? The neighborhood is too commercial and is better suited for working than living. The rent is too high. What's your flat like? It's a very livable one bedroom with a separate kitchen, bathroom, and terrace. To me the place feels cozy. How much is rent? My school says they pay 1,500. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Tianfu Square is a five-minute walk but I think of my neighborhood as my block. My block has Carrefour and Starbucks. In the morning people with missing limbs, facial burns, and other serious problems ask for money. In the afternoon people sell little dolls and lights. At night kids Rollerblade in circles outside Carrefour.
B.M., 22, journalist (China)
Where do you live? Xianghe Li, near the First Ring Road east. Why there? It's near my workplace and you can find everything you need five minutes from your home, no matter what time it is. Who are your neighbors? Students and locals. What are the three best things about living there? You can smell the yummy chicken bowls downstairs even when you're in your bed. Everything here is so peaceful, store owners know you and whenever they saw you they would say hello. And neighbors are all feeding some pet. What about it makes you want to move? Nothing actually. It's like a small Yulin here, but much nearer to my workplace. What's your flat like? 130 square meters, three rooms, nice deco (well, just not bad), everything you may need but an oven. How much is rent? 1,600yuan/month. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Ziwei Kaoyu—the fried-fish kitchen.
Rabbi, 25, designer/DJ (China)
Where do you live? Sansheng Jie. Why there? Close to work & downtown. Who are your neighbors? Young people & local old neighbors. Three best things about living there: Center of the city, many food choices, easy shopping. Three things that would motivate you to move elsewhere: A great view, fresh air, and/or a riverside location. How much is rent? 1,100 per month. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? ATT karaoke.
Ashley, 32, freelance writer (U.S.)
Where do you live? Just north of the river, southeast of Chunxi Lu. Why did you decide to live there? I moved from the west part of the city to be closer to a job I had at the time. Was tired of apartment-hunting, and this one was OK. Who are your neighbors? Lots of older people, a lot of well-to-do or maybe government people because even though the outside of the buildings look old and rundown, the place is packed with cars. I also see foreigners walking around here regularly. What are the three best things about your 'hood? I can walk to Yanshi Kou, Chunxi Lu, Hemp House, Dave's Oasis, etc. and I can avoid being cliché by living in Zongbei but it's still only a short bus or bike ride away. There are also lots of nice little bakeries and milk-tea places and good late-night food options. What makes you want to move away? The sidewalks on our street are particularly dirty from all the restaurants and full of those loose tiles that squirt muck onto your legs if you step on them the wrong way; annoying gate guard who never hears the bell until I've been ringing it for 10 minutes; there are only windows on the north wall, so it's always quite dark inside. What's your flat like? Two bedrooms, one large bathroom, living room, sitting-room area, and a nice kitchen with checkerboard floor. Sparsely furnished, which I prefer. How much is rent? 1,300 RMB. It was a deal at 1,000 when we moved in several years ago. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Xinnanmen Station.
Jessie Levene, student (U.K.)
Where do you live? Xiaotian. A couple of blocks north of Yiguan Miao, just east of Min Da, and just south of Huaxi hospital. Why did you decide to live there? Me and my boyfriend moved here because it's close to Min Da, where he teaches and I study. Who are your neighbors? There's a real mixture here: old people, young people, middle-class people with their 4x4s, casual workers who live in dorms, Tibetans, and a few foreigners, including Indian and Nepalese medical students. We can regularly smell curry cooking in the complex. What are the three best things about your 'hood? Convenience (I can walk to class in under 10 minutes), closeness to lots of the places where we like to hang out (Middle Bar, Machu Picchu, our friends' houses, etc.), and the ping-pong table in the courtyard. What makes you want to move away? The brothels on our street and the sleazy men who frequent them, lack of any kind of green space nearby, and lack of particularly attractive architecture in the area. What's your flat like? It's perfect for us and has a real coziness that I feel is often missing in Chinese apartments; plus, it was renovated two years ago so everything's pretty newish. We have a big kitchen and washing machine, sitting room with sofas, TV, air con, etc., a little bathroom with Western toilet and shower, and two bedrooms (one double). How much is rent? 1,400 RMB, which I think is pretty good (and there are no rats). What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Huaxi Hospital.
Lisa, 29, private tutor and translator (China)
Where do you live? Xiao Jia He. Why did you decide to live there? It's close to the Southwest University for Nationalities. Who are your neighbors? Locals. I've seen one foreigner. What are the three best things about living there? Good food, Xiao Jia He walking street, and the atmosphere. What's your flat like? Two bedrooms, 80 square meters, seventh floor. How much is rent? 1,000 RMB per month. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Yulin Primary School.
Heather, 30, Architectural consultant (Canada)
Where do you live? Off Longzhou Lu, not far from the Wanda Plaza. Why did you choose to live there? It is close to where I catch my lift to work in Longquan. Who are your neighbors? Local families. What are the three best things about living there? The street with cheap good restaurants and veggie vendors around the corner; Wanda Plaza close by if you need something more up-market; and my apartment complex is really nice—low-key, lots of trees and park space. What are three things that make you want to live in another area? No late-night shaokao, no breakfast places that sell those deep fried spicy-potato burrito things [otherwise known as spring rolls—ed.] (actually not a lot of good breakfast options period), besides that - no complaints. What's your flat like? three bedroom with two bathrooms, large balcony, big kitchen and dining room with table. How much is rent? 2400. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Wanda Plaza or Wang Jiang Park.
Bobby, 43, semi-retired art director (Hong Kong)
What area do you live in? Qing Yang / Near the Third Ring Road. Why did you choose to live there? Such a wonderful city for retirement, cost of living, and the living quality. Who are your neighbors? Mainly middle class locals, not many foreigners. What are the three best things about living there? Lower population, three big parks close by, convenient access to the motorway. What's your flat like? Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, 140sqm, low density, outdoor swimming pool. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Swan Lake golf driving range.
Li Zheng, 29, teacher (China)
Where do you live? Guanghua area, my apartment is next to Swan Lake Golf Club. Why did you decide to live there? Lower population density; four parks nearby; close to the school I teach at. Who are your neighbors? Locals. Most of them are rich except me. A taxi diver once questioned on me for taking his cab because he thought people live in this area should own cars. I don't have a car. What do you like best about the area? It's quiet, clean, and convenient for work and life. What makes you want to live in another area? The only problem is that this area is far from downtown so it is not convenient of going out at night without a car. What's your flat like? It is a 100-square-meter apartment with a big living room, two bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen. One balcony faces the garden, another one faces the main street, and across the street there are no big buildings but a beautiful view with trees and sky. How much is rent? 1000 kuai/month. What's the most recognizable landmark nearby? Qingshui River Park.
Niki, 31, office clerk (China)
Where do you live? Near the Jinsha Museum. Why did you decide to live there? I live with my parents. Who are your neighbors? Locals and some foreign teachers. What do you like about that area? Transportation is very convenient, there are many good restaurants, and it's not very far from my office. What do you dislike about it? I live on the first floor, so it's not very dry and quite dark, and there's no view. What's your flat like? My flat has a big garden. I like that I can plant things there. How much is rent? It's my mother's house, so it's free for me. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? The famous Jinsha Museum and Jinsha Bus Station.
JINNIU DISTRICT 金牛区
Annie, Chinese instructor (China)
Where do you live? In the north, Jinniu district. Why did you choose to live up there? It's close to the university, so I can use the library. It's safe, quiet, and convenient for life. Who are your neighbors? Nearby there are teachers and students, also a lot of young families. What are the three best things about living there? It's quiet, close to the library and campus, and comparatively inexpensive with a high-quality environment. What are three things that make you want to live in another area? I'd like to be closer to my work so I could bike there, that's all. What's your flat like? Single apartment with a sitting room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a balcony. Part of the furniture and electric appliances included. How much is rent? 800 RMB. Now the price of other flats here has risen to 1,000 and 1,200 but my good-hearted landlord hasn't raised my rent! What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Jiaotong Uni.
Zi'ning, 19, student (China)
Where do you live? The dormitories of Sichuan Normal University. Why? I'm a student, so I don't really have a choice, and I don't want to spend a lot of money renting a flat. Who are your neighbors? Students and teachers. What's good about living there? I don't have to pay a lot—the school dormitory is very economical for us students; it doesn't take too long to walk to the classrooms so I can get up late in the morning; sometimes it's really fun to share a room with three other girls. What sucks about it? The school cuts our electricity off at 11 p.m. on weekdays and at 11:30 on weekends; our campus is in the south of the city, so going out is not very convenient; too many people live here, and girls can be really noisy. Describe your room. Four girls to a room, four bunk bed with desks under the beds, one TV, one water dispenser, lots of shoes, a small balcony, a small bathroom. All in all, it's very small, but it's only 1,200 per year! What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? The shopping street beside our south gate, which is also a very good place for dinner! Take the 38, 40, or 56 bus, get at the university south gate stop (川师南大门).
Kristin, 27, student (U.S.)
Where do you live? I live in Hong He neighborhood, Sichuan Normal University East Campus (outside the Third Ring Road). Why? Because it seems like "real China" to me. Who else lives out there? All locals live here, university students to farmers. What are the three best things about living there? The night market and all its wonderful food; it's cheap; nothing but Sichuanhua is spoken here. What makes you want to move? It's a long bus ride from lots of the fun stuff downtown; sometimes the whole area smells like fish or seems to be under some type of dust storm; and the overabundance of people on the street and loud bus horns especially during meal times. What's your flat like? I live in a four-bedroom apartment, two bathrooms, with some local friends. Our place is pretty darn big with a decent kitchen, and my room is huge. How much is rent? 1,200 RMB total a month. What's the most recognizable landmark in the area? That's got to be the night market across the street from the back gate of the university.
Lasse, 25, volunteer English teacher (Denmark)
Where do you live? Wenjiang, outside the Fourth Ring Road west of Chengdu. Why did you choose to live there? I was just told that this is the apartment for me. Who are your neighbors? Very mixed, but there are a lot of students as there are at least four universities there. There are very few foreigners. What do you like best about living there? The locals are not so used to foreigners so everyone says hi and comes to talk to you even if they only know a little English, so you feel very welcome which is nice when you've gone to the other side of the globe with a bunch of people you don't know. And in that way I also got a few Chinese friends. The university campuses I really like.Floraland is also a nice place. What are three things that make you want to live in another area? It is a bit far away from Chengdu. It's a nice place but it's sometimes hard to find clothes and shoes my size. And it hasn't got any clubs, but at least they have a lot of KTVs which is fun if you have some Chinese friends, and there's a very nice bar too. What's your flat like? I share a flat with one of my colleagues. It's got two rooms, one with a balcony. A rather big living room and a big bathroom and a small kitchen with another small balcony. How much is rent? It's paid for by the kindergarten so I have no idea what it costs. What's the most recognizable landmark in your area? Hmm, I guess the park or one of the big skyscrapers that's under construction in many places in Wenjiang.
Jocelyn, 26, nurse (China)
Where do you live? In the Ba Li suburbs in the northeast. Why did you decide to live there? My father bought property here. Now, locals are moving from downtown to the outskirts of the city. Who are your neighbors? Most are migrants from other cities in Sichuan; a handful of locals, few foreigners. What's the best part about living there? Low living cost; not too noisy. And the worst? It's not developed well, meaning inconvenient transportation; not very safe, and lack of entertainment options. What's your flat like? Over 100 square meters; three bedrooms, two toilets, living room, dining room, kitchen.