First Impressions of Dalian

Another year, another home!

Ok, that makes me sound like part of the travelling community, but you get what I mean.

Avid readers of this blog (they do exist, I promise!) will remember that I left the Basque Country at the end of June after my second year there. After a summer spent taking spontaneous trips to Naples, visiting Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix (watch this space!) and generally taking stock, I arrived in Dalian, northern China at the end of August where I’ll be living and working for a year.

The job

I might as well start with the main reason I’m here: work!

Unlike my previous jobs – where I’ve been working for private language schools teaching people of all ages – this one is a little more specific. My new position is at a public university, where my role is to teach second-year students academic and business English.

I’m only one week in so far, but I only teach three groups three times a week for a total of 18 teaching hours. I’m seriously struggling to see the downside. Oh yeah, and I’m also done for the week at 10am on Thursdays and I get a free apartment on campus. Seriously, where’s the catch?

To top it off, my official title is ‘lecturer’ now. I can’t pretend I’m not loving that.

The city

Let’s be honest, China is so big that many probably won’t have heard of Dalian. In fact, I’d only heard of it because their football team is minted and they’ve splashed the cash on the likes of Yannick Carrasco, Marek Hamsik and Rafa Benitez in recent times! Others of a historical inclination may know of it because of its previous name of Port Arthur.

Dalian was described to me a few months ago as a ‘small’ city with a population of ‘only’ six million.  For context, the population of London is about eight million. Make of that what you will.

A fairly glitzy bank as far as they go!

It’s been an absolute whirlwind so far and unlike previous years I’ve not really explored too much in my first few weeks. For some reason I’ve been absolutely exhausted since arriving and haven’t explored beyond my campus and a few malls. On the subject of malls, I’m convinced Dalian has the highest mall:person ratio I’ve ever seen. Seriously, they’re bloody everywhere.

One thing I’ve really enjoyed so far is running around the city. Thanks to its location on the north-eastern coast of China, Dalian is a really picturesque city to run around. In fact, thanks to jetlag I found myself exploring on an impromptu 12.5km run on my first morning!

If in doubt (or suffering from jetlag), run!

The picture above is Xinghai Square, a 270-acre ‘square’ (actually an oval!) which is supposedly the largest city square in the world. Surrounded by roads and streets leading off in every direction, as well as an amusement park and a beach, there’s plenty to see and do around here and it’s just a couple of stops from my place on the metro.

In addition to the German beer house and 10 day International Beer Festival held here in the summer, I also accidentally discovered that the massive fountain in the middle does a really impressive music and light show whilst walking through one night!

Not a bad thing to accidentally stumble upon!

The beach

Upon searching for pictures of the beach in Dalian, I was somewhat horrified to find it on a list of ‘Top 10 beaches you don’t want to visit’. A quick Google image search helps you to understand this a little more.

Photo courtesy of The Weather Channel.

Thankfully, there are plenty more beaches in and around the city than the aforementioned Fujiazhuang and I visited one such place for a barbecue on my first weekend here with a bunch of expats and locals I was introduced to by a fellow teacher lecturer.

To my absolute surprise the beach itself was quiet, clean and there was more than enough space for everyone. Hell, people were even chucking frisbees around! See for yourself!

That’s more like it!

The food

You didn’t think I’d write this many words without mentioning food, did you?

In my natural habitat.

Being on the coast, Dalian is apparently known for its seafood and while I haven’t quite managed to suss out the best spots yet, I’ve still managed to put away a few decent feeds. There’s been plenty of barbecued food, a fiery hotpot, more noodles than you can shake a stick at, and I’ve even been pointed in the direction of the best fish and chips in town!

The red part was every bit as spicy as it looks.
Just before the chicken feet arrived.
A ‘first day of work’ treat!
Home from home!

So there you have it. First impressions of Dalian? Very strong…but then again, don’t I always say that?

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