Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is Shenzhen the most horrible city in China?

Shenzhen used to be a fishermen village but in the last 30 years had became in a super developed metropolis. Obviously, everything is brand new, you cannot find here the Great Wall or the Forbidden City or places with millenarian interest…However, you can find things to do during your visit, especially if you get the special 5 Days visa for Shenzhen Economic Area.

A landscape picture of Shenzhen

Shenzhen is located right in the border with Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). That means that it is the first Chinese city that you will see when crossing the border.

How to get there
You can travel by bus or by ferry, but without doubt the easiest way to get there is by using the underground MTR. The main entry ports are Futian and Luohu (called Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu at Hong Kong border). The price of the ticket is around 45HK$ depending from which part of the city you board the train. You will have to use the fair blue line called East Rail Line

If you cross the border, be aware that only opens from 6:30 to 24.00

How to get around
The Underground system is very similar to Hong Kong one, very easy to navigate. Stops are market in pinyin (English transcriptions, our Roman alphabet). The ticket is one green token (that's probably where the Kazakh Almaty metro constructors got the idea of the yellow token?) that you will have to keep until the end of your trip and will cost you around 2-5 yuans to travel.

Quite clean and efficient underground.
The metro token and a close shoot of my hand, if some fortune-tellers wants to have a read:P

Buses are not very easy to understand if you don’t speak Chinese but they are quite cheap (2 yuans).

Taxi could be more expensive than in Hong Kong, around 70 yuans per trip.
Shenzhen at night. Why so many cars? Where are the bikes?

There were many people city the city as there is no major elevation.
The city is really huge and it can take you many hours to walk only 3 metro stops. 

An empty street in Shenzhen! How did I managed to get this picture? Surprise!

This is probably the main activity that Hong Kongers and foreigners come here to do. I am not a shopping love at all, but saw for example really nice coat at 79 yuans.

This is really my section and I was really carving for real Chinese food (to compare with the one in the Chinese Restaurants in Western countries). My rule is never ask what it what I am eating, as Chinese cook every part of the animal (Western countries do sausages and hamburger instead but Chinese eat lungs, intestines, legs).
Don't ask me what I ordered...

For breakfast I usually had soya milk with cereals (1.50y) and vegetable baozi (for 1 yuans!). So, as you can see, very affordable healthy breakfast for less than 0,41US$!

My regular breakfast place.

Same as Japan, there are vending machine everywhere. I was craving yogurt and dairy and I find this amazing outstanding yogurt sold at the machines for 5-6 yuans.  
Definitely a good reason to go back to China, this delicious yogurt with pieces of nata.

Street vendors are not so common as I expected, but offers a good range of food appropriate for western taste. 

The veggie crepe of this lady was quite tasty.

Are there foreigners living there?
A part from English teachers, lots of foreigners call Shenzhen home. Constructors and business men, most of them live in Gangxia area, close to the party place (Cocopark). Just go out any night of the week to meet them!

Getting connected
Everyone will be surprised, but McDonalds and big fast food brand do not offer free wifi. If so, they will provide you with half and hour only after sending you a text to your Chinese number (not useful if you don’t have any Chinese SIM card). I found that many coffee, even if it is not advertised, they have wifi available upon request.

Where to exchange your money?
Either Hong Kong exchange bureaus or Shenzhen offer very competitive rates when exchanging HK$ into Yuans. Dollars are quite week everywhere. I don't advise to change your money in the bank, they just ask for so many paperwork, even if exchange a small quantity like 100US$.

The (in)famous Mao everywhere

Does it really worth to visit Shenzhen? Is that horrible as people say?
Actually, for someone with unlimited schedule and visa, I would probably recommend to skip Shenzhen and explore Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai… Unless you live in Hong Kong for a long time and want to explore China for a few days but you don’t have any time or resources to apply for a full Tourist Chinese visa. Otherwise, Shenzhen may disappoint you. 

Have your ever visit an unattractive city and find it quite interesting?

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