DALIAN is different !
December and January usually coincide with a larger holiday for my daughter Kika. So I always try to line up a trip that is fun for her and fun for me. And fun for mom as well.
Not an easy feat to align the interests of a 9-year-old girl, my wife’s who is rather used to tropical conditions & climate and a 50 something-year-old (ad)venture – that is me. But it usually works out.
This time the plan was to go somewhere cold and interesting. Escape from the tropical heat that is Bali. So, we set our eyes on North East China and in particular Harbin – where a huge ice & snow festival is usually taking place.
But to fly all the way to China only to visit Harbin would not be worth. So we needed at least one more place.
So we decided on Dalian as the other destination.
Never heard of Dalian ? Don’t worry it is not necessarily a place you need to have on your bucket list.
Lets’ see some pictures first:
Why visit Dalian ?
Well, firstly it is relatively close to Harbin, which was our primary destination. A mere 3-hours train ride on China’s super convenient high-speed trains.
But the main reason was: I was curious! Curious why Dalian is ranks as China’s most livable city.
I enjoy visiting the big cities of China. Though I would not consider any of China’s big cities to be particularly livable for longer periods. Let alone raise children there.
Chinese cities tend to be very convenient – all facilities within reach. But on the other side, Chinese cities are rather polluted, congested, crowded, loud and with few green spaces.
But Dalian is indeed different.
Firstly, Dalian’s traffic is bearable and there are hardly any traffic jams. Pollution seems to be also much less of a problem when compared to other big cities in China. Which has also to do with Dalian being a coastal city where the wind helps to blow the pollution away.
During my research, I also read that Dalian has also lot’s of parks and green spaces. And lastly flying to Dalian was also convenient for me coming from Bali. We could fly there with only one short stop-over in Seoul.
Enough reasons to pay a visit to Dalian. We stayed there for a week.
Some more impressions from Dalian:
A little bit of Japan, a little bit of Russia & Europe in China
Geographically Dalian is the city in China which is closest to Japan.
Ever since China’s opening-up, many Japanese companies have set up shop in Dalian. Consequently, there is a large Japanese expat population in Dalian. Which is very good news. Why ?
Because there are many excellent Japanese restaurants that cater for Japanese expats.
Also, during the last century when Japan occupied parts of China, Dalian played an important role for the Japanese and that influence is still felt in many parts of Dalian in terms of architectural heritage.
Nowhere in China have I seen streets being so neat and tidy. And with so many nice looking houses. In fact, in certain areas, Dailan does not feel like China at all.
There is the Russian / European and Japanese influence everywhere.
And then there is also some ‘Neo-European’ architecture visible in Dalian. But rather than me trying to describe it all let me show you the pictures:
A city of Lights
Before visiting Dalian I had asked a friend of mine to do some online shopping for me in China. Because China’s Taobao (the Chinese equivalent of ebay) is a paradise for ‘gear-lusty’ photographers.
Ever since I committed to slow-photography I got addicted to manual focusing, old vintage lenses. And China is a paradise for vintage photography gear.
Upon arriving in China I got a handful of those lenses, which I was naturally very eager to try out. In particular, I wanted to throw those lenses at low-light / night photography situations.
Dalian turned out to be ideal for this. Because especially during the winter months North China’s cities are beautifully decorated with lights all over the place.
In the following please see some examples of those photographs:
And here are some ‘abstract’ night photographs:
Should you visit Dalian ?
I can think of many other cities in China that would have much more to see in terms of attractions and places of interest for a visitor.
But if you have already visited the ‘usual suspects’ such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Hangzhou, etc… and you are looking for a more ‘off-the-beaten’ track place in China then Dalian is certainly worth a visit.
Or if you, like me, plan to visit the Snow & Ice’ festival in Harbin then it may be a good idea to combine this with a visit to Dalian.
Although I came to Dalian during the cold winter months I suspect that Dalian with its countless parks and the beach is also quite nice in summer.
I very much enjoyed my stay in Dalian. And so has my family. Here you can see my ‘family photos’ from that Dalian / Harbin trip.