We went to Dalian last the weekend to see what was advertised as a clean and beautiful city. We wanted to see it before it becomes overrun and spoilt.
The inexorable march of progress is stomping all over the city. The air is polluted, the vista is hazy, the roads are clogged with traffic, parts of the city that were once green and open are now building sites with high-rise apartments, and several of the famous squares are now clad in blue metal sheeting with construction of a metro system.
We went to the beach but decided that the water wasn’t what we are used to for swimming in, and so decided to give that a miss. Dalian is a commercial port and there is also a naval port is Lushun just to the south. Lushun made for a pleasant few hours.
Russian Street was reportedly famous for the architecture in the street. That which remains is now masked by the awnings of Chinese vendors selling assorted junk items with inflated prices.
Dalian is still very popular amongst the Chinese, and therein lies the problem. With more cars on the road every day the city is now within reach of millions as a weekend getaway.
Talking of vehicles; It was interesting to see the wedding groups circling Xinghai square in their parades of cars, all being videographed for posterity. None of the fountains were running on the Saturday when we visited and, along with the lack of trees this large square looked barren and devoid of character. The vista is also not helped by having layers of high-rise buildings on one side and grubby water on the other.
A drive around the eastern coastal road was more rewarding with views of the rocky coast and the pine clad hills. It has a quasi-Italian feel to it.
The central city has many shopping complexes ranging from dingy markets to modern malls, which is usual in cities these days.
An evening stroll allows closer inspection of some of the architecture in the central squares. If you avert your eyes from the blue-clad centres there is still interest in the range of buildings.
I understand from discussions, whilst there, that the town is much changed from how it looked even five years ago, and a more frequent visitor lamented to me on the green spaces that have since disappeared. I don’t know if the ex-mayor who contributed much to Dalian’s former glory returns often or whether even he would have been able to determine a better state for the city during this economic boom. Perhaps after the boom period focus will again return to polishing the façade.
Dalian is still a relatively pretty city compared to others in north-eastern China. But I fear that it is just not worth a specific trip unless you happen to already be close by.