One way or another, almost anyone travelling through central China has to pass through WUHAN, Hubei’s vast capital. The name is a portmanteau label for three original settlements, separated by the Han and Yangzi rivers but connected by bridges, tunnels and ferries. On the west bank of the Yangzi, Hankou is the city’s trade and business centre and boasts the best services and accommodation. South across the Han River is lightly industrial Hanyang, while Wuchang recedes southeast of the Yangzi into semi-rural parkland.

Wuhan’s sheer size lends atmosphere and significance, even if the metropolis not a traditional tourist centre. Hankou’s former role as a foreign concession has left plenty of colonial European heritage in its wake, while Wuchang’s Provincial Museum in is one of China’s best. There are also a couple of temples and historical monuments to explore, some connected to the 1911 revolution that ended two thousand years of imperial rule. On the downside, Wuhan’s continued growth and development and the ongoing metro construction mean that the city currently feels like an enormous building site, and can make it a challenge even to cross the road. Furthermore, the city has a well-deserved reputation – along with Chongqing and Nanjing – as one of China’s three summer “furnaces”: between May and September you’ll find the streets melting and the gasping population surviving on a diet of watermelon and iced treats.

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