Ciuitates mutantur

I only turned my back for a minute.

Even if very little else changes in China (e.g. Have people in Jiangsu stopped wearing pyjamas in public? No. Are Chinese motorists considerate of other road users and pedestrians? No), cities never stand still. They perhaps don’t change quite as rapidly as the clichés would have the world believe. For example, it’s taken five years for the buildings to the east of me to reach their current unfinished state, and in Chengdu, the area around 大慈 has managed to go almost nowhere in the past eight years. The original development stalled, and the current one is making glaciers look like Usain Bolt.

But when I got back from Chengdu on Tuesday, I found there had been several changes while I’d been away. The 85° shop opposite Baoli has reopened after being refurbished. I must go in and see whether they have the tiramisu log which Linda introduced me to in Chengdu. Then via my former colleagues, Joe and Lucy, I learnt that the Metro has started running.

A couple of weeks ago, the entrances all seemed to have been opened. There was one from the Parkson building where Burger King used to be, and another from the Far Eastern where the posh wine shop once was. I need to go and have a look at a map to see what course it takes. I know it runs along Zhongshan Lu, which bisects the centre of the city, but I don’t know where the line has come from or where it’s going.

[As an aside, I now suspect that Jiefang Lu marks the line of the old city walls. The Metro exit from the Far Eastern is called 胜利门 (Shenglimen “Victory Gate”), and I see on the map 东门 and 西门. There seems to be no southern gate.]

When I went out to Ikea yesterday to buy a bedside lamp, I did see that there’s a station being built not far from there. I’m not sure whether the line, which is elevated, is going to be part of the Metro, or some sort of light rail link. At the moment, getting the bus to Ikea is no real bother beyond the length of time spent waiting at either end, and the slowness of the journey, which takes about half an hour.

Another new development was the roadworks on 学前东路 (Xue Qian Donglu) alongside Yaohan (aka, Ba Bai Ban). The road is completely blocked off at the moment as they rip up the surface, but that whole section to the next intersection has needed seeing to for a long, long time.

Things have also changed out at Ikea with the opening of the Livat shopping mall. This appears to be run by Ikea, and there are connections between the two buildings, but the shops in the mall are the usual sort of thing, and include a cinema, Auchan (a supermarket), and yet another Suning. The place also has Subway and Burger King, which both used to be in Parkson before they vanished. I’ve been wondering whether either place might reappear in town, but at the moment, they’ve been banished to the New District, and although it’s not difficult to reach them, the journey vacuums up quite a chunk of time.

Livat is also a good deal more expansive than it seems. From outside the building is reasonably large, but that also disguises the depth behind it. Most of the shops are up and running with a few blanks in between. I notice, though, that once again, there’s never anywhere to sit down. Perhaps this is to stop the local bumpkins swarming into the place for free air con but for little else. (They were already lolling all over the beds in Ikea.)

I wandered around the building, but by that time, I’d bought the lamp from Ikea and had had lunch, and there was no reason for me to linger. I note that there is ultimately nothing special about Livat. It’s the usual sort of shops, most of which don’t interest me in the slightest and most of which are already in town – apart from Subway and Burger King. I also note, once again, the complete absence of any bookshops.

One thing I noticed when I was in Chengdu was just how different the Far Eastern is there from the one here. In our one, there is a central space with the shops around it. The one in Chengdu has no central space, which makes it feel very different. It seemed more claustrophobic and more like those vast clothing markets in Beijing which I visited once or twice, where everything is packed in like sardines on floor after floor. On the other hand, the IFS building in Chengdu has a central space which, I assume, is some sort of psychological ploy intended to improve the shopping experience. (That’s probably what the brochure said, but probably didn’t say “ploy”.) Along with many of the shopping malls in town, Livat is based on the same principles.

Map of Wuxi Metro, Line 1

When I go shopping later, I’ll venture into one of the Metro stations to have a look at a map to see where the line goes, and perhaps where it’s supposed to be going. Is Line 1 the usual north-south affair or is it a circuit? What were they doing outside BuyNow on Wu’ai Lu, which seems to be a bit removed from the rest of the Metro system? I thought it was going to be another entrance, but that now seems highly unlikely.

[A little later. I went into the Sanyang en­trance outside Parkson and took this picture of Line 1. I suspect that Line 2 will run east-west and will include the station out near Ikea, though currently nothing heads into the New District (新区).]


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