Navjot Singh, a well-known British author, journalist and photographer, shares his thoughts on how to best explore Shenzhen in China. Be sure to check back in with us for some more insightful reviews from Navjot’s travel exploits.
Shenzhen is situated on the southern coast of China’s Guangdong province, east of the mouth of the Pearl River and bordering Hong Kong’s northern territories. Prior to the early 1980s, Shenzhen was little more than just a small fishing village and it was beyond anyone’s dream that this fishing village would, in a space of just 32 years, become a fast booming city with a keen interest from the world over.
The city itself is a sub province level city and was one of China’s first Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which were established by the late Deng Xiao Ping in the early 1980s. Native Shenzhen people are rare to find but, if you do come across them (especially those in their 50s and 60s- and their offspring), they are also most likely to be very well off because the government paid these people a lot of money to give-up their fishing farms in return for huge cash incentives so that big multi-nationals could be built.
I have seen Shenzhen dramatically grow in the past 10 years or so that I have been here. Some people when they first come to Shenzhen from Guangzhou or even the rural parts of Hong Kong, wonder if they are still in Hong Kong because of the abundance of high-rise glass and high amount of buzz in the air. Overall, the vast majority of Shenzhen’s population consists of a potpourri of various ethnicities. People all over China and other countries come to this city looking to make money and turn their dreams into reality. The vast majority of people are from Hunan, Hubei and Sichuan provinces, while most of the expatriate population are from the U.S.A., Canada, Philippines, India, and Australia.
It’s been a privilege to witness the dramatic development of the city that has come to be known as China’s garden city, due to the vast amounts of greenery around. No other city in the world claims to have more plants, flowers, and gardens dotted around, and amazingly, despite being only around 40 miles away from Guangzhou, Shenzhen has more days with a clear blue sky than its neighbouring cities. So, the next time you are in Hong Kong, make sure you try and take a day or two to visit Shenzhen and see this stunning city.
Window of the World
Located at the Shijiezhichuang metro station on line 1, the Window of the World is an action packed theme park that houses life sized replica models of the world’s major tourist attractions such as the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge, the Pyramids, and around 120 other gigantic models. In time, it has become the most famous tourist attraction of Shenzhen. Everyday there are live circus style shows with professional artists from many countries providing a truly multimedia extravaganza. Allow a whole day to enjoy the environment to the max. Admission charges apply.
Ideally situated right across the Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) in Nanshan district, Splendid China is a celebration of Chinese culture, tradition, language and its people. Artists dressed in authentic costumes representing all of the 56 ethnic groups perform various forms of acting to showcase the different cultural lifestyles of the ethnic minorities of China. There is plenty of song and dance, as well as food tasting. A colourful extravaganza awaits you, as you are entertained for the whole day. Admission charges apply.
Folk Cultural Village
Located right next to the Splendid China theme park, the Folk Cultural Village is another extravagant display of rural Chinese tradition and culture. The theme park focuses on the roots of the culture that used to form around the various villages of Shenzhen, and still does in rural parts of China. Actors perform while dressed in traditional costumes. Admission charges apply.
Shenzhen Safari Park
A relatively new attraction, located in the north of the city centre in Nanshan district, the Shenzhen Safari Park only opened in 2008, and is still growing. There are all kinds of animals at the Shenzhen safari park including giraffes, rhinos, snakes, elephants and some rare birds too. The easiest way to get to the park is by taking a taxi. Admission charges apply.
Shop for everything!
If you love to get a good bargain for clothes, electronic good, or even a tailor made 3-piece suit then Shenzhen is the place for you! Shopping areas such as Huaqiangbei (known as Electronic goods city), Dongmen, Shenzhen Coastal City (Hai An Cheng), and the Luohu Commercial City are the places to be at to get a good quality product for your money’s worth. No fakes here, and it’s where the traders come to shop for ‘Made in China’ goods too!
Shenzhen’s bustling restaurant scene offers everything under the sun from Chinese cuisine (of all tastes) to Western cuisine. For a gastronomic culinary adventure try Xiangmeihu Lake BBQ resort (Honey Lake BBQ Resort), which is located in the heart of the Chinese Overseas Town (OCT). Xiangmeihu (Honey Lake) resort has over fifty BBQ restaurant outlets dotted all the way around the shores of the lake. It’s the place to be with your family, loved one, or friends any day of the week. Its best to take a few Chinese friends if you don’t speak Mandarin as most of the menus are in the local language, and sadly not many waiters can speak good enough English.
Where to stay?
Depending on your budget there is a hotel for everyone ranging from the luxury, the averagely good, and somewhere in-between. For the high-end try the splendid ‘Shangri-La Shenzhen’ which is located at the border with Hong Kong at Lowu, and in the heart of the most happening place of the city. The shopping, restaurant, and entertainment areas are all within a stone throws away from each other of the hotel.
How to get there?
The nearest international airport with direct flights worldwide is Hong Kong. I flew to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific Airways, and then took a taxi to the border at Lowu. From Hong Kong airport you can either take the ferry to Shekou (takes about 30 minutes), or take a taxi to any of the border ports (Lowu, Futian, or Shenzhen Bay – all taking about 40 minutes). You may also take an airport taxi to the border (costs about 170HKD (USD 30)), and then take a local taxi in Shenzhen to your hotel. Although Shenzhen has an international airport, however most of the direct connections are only within China or to destinations in Asia. Please note that American and British citizens will need a visa to enter China from Hong Kong.
To learn more about Navjot and his travels, be sure to check out his website: www.navjot-singh.com.