HOHHOT, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Irina Petrova who hails from Russia's Ulan-Ude returned to Manzhouli City in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region this month after being away for nearly three years due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Petrova visited Manzhouli for the first time in 2015 as part of her graduation trip and instantly fell in love with this Chinese city bordering Russia. She moved to the city a year later to start her work experience and had lived there for more than four years until the outbreak of the pandemic.
"I missed the local delicacies and all my friends here so much," Petrova said while indulging in her favorite Chinese delicacy of twice-cooked pork slices, fried potato with green pepper and eggplant.
Manzhouli, known as the "window of East Asia," is China's largest land port. After China optimized its COVID-19 response, the number of people traveling through the port reached 44,678 and the number of vehicles came in at 25,597 from the beginning of this year to March 14, up 166.2 and 99.4 percent year on year, respectively.
Currently, about 200 Russians enter and exit Manzhouli every day, according to the customs authorities.
After returning to the Manzhouli, Petrova immediately found a job in a Russian-style Lubuli Restaurant in the city. According to her, many of her Russian peers took Chinese classes in college to better prepare themselves for job opportunities in China.
Strolling the streets and alleys of this small border city with a population of 150,000, Russian-style buildings can be seen everywhere, and shop signs are printed in three languages: Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian.
Sun Yulong, who owns a local Russian food processing factory, hired seven Russian food technicians in 2015 to produce specialty items such as sausage and bread. With the ease in travel restrictions, Sun's former employees are now returning to the city.
Sun and his Russian friends are optimistic about their business prospects and they plan to open a Russian baking school in Manzhouli this year. The school will aim to act as a platform to enhance cross-border exchanges in the pastry and dessert business.
According to Ling Yun, chairman of the Manzhouli municipal committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, with the progress of China's Belt and Road development, Manzhouli is expected to experience more bustling personnel and cultural exchanges.