Bit of a lazy week, last week and I never really got round to updating the blog. Last Saturday (4th August) I woke up hungover and with a painful bruise to my ribs. The hangover was the result of post-hockey match drinks, and the bruise to the ribs the result of being hit by the hockey ball during the match. I had unwisely volunteered to play kicking back and couldn’t get out of the way of the ball quickly enough. Still, the post-match drinks had helped to anaesthetise the pain on the night. Today I had decided to go to Shenzhen which is over the Shenzhen River, and is part of mainland China. It’s been designated a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), and it’s basically where a lot of the previously Hong Kong manufacturing base has been relocated to. Due to China’s lack of environmental laws the city has the reputation for being cheap, dirty, and smelly. A lot of local Hong Kongers blame Shenzhen and the surrounding manufacturing industry of the Pearl River delta for a lot of the pollution problems here.

The main reason for my trip to Shenzhen is to return to Hong Kong on my working visa – I could do this via a trip to Macau, but I’ve got a multiple entry visa for People’s Republic of China, and I’ve been to Macau 3 times recently so Shenzhen would at least be a novelty. It’s also easier to get to. A simple MTR ride to Tsim Sha Tsui, and then jump onto the Kowloon Canton Railway (KCR). This terminates at Lo Hu, which is on the Hong Kong side of the Shenzhen River, and then it should be a simple walk across the bridge into communist China (except Shenzhen is a very capitalist city). My trip was incident free, and getting into Shenzhen was no problem at all.

If anything stepping out of Shenzhen station it felt hotter than Hong Kong, and definitely dustier. I’d forgotten to bring my lonely planet guide, so had no real idea of where to go or even what direction to go in. I did initially consider just heading back and getting the passport updated, but then figured I may as well spend a bit of time and take a wander around. If I found nothing, I could head back. Having spotted a road that headed off straight off into the distance towards taller buildings I assumed this would be a good direction to start off with. On the other side of the road walking in the opposite direction to me I saw a kid carrying a McDonalds bag – a good sign of increased commercialism on the route I was following.

My usual quick walking pace was occasionally interrupted by hawkers asking if I wanted a massage. I’m told these are very popular in Shenzhen with lots of people heading across from Hong Kong for these specifically (and hair cuts, somewhat oddly). I can’t say I was interested, and if I was, I’d go with one of the guys from the Novell office who makes the trip quite regularly I’m told. However, it was just about the only english language I’d see or heard since arriving. I’d been warned that as I spoke no mandarin or cantonese that I would struggle. It quickly became apparent how much english there is in Hong Kong, as there was very little here.

The road I walked along was somewhat disappointing, and I began to think I’d have to head back – and come back with the lonely planet at some point. However, I reached a junction which allowed me to see the road that ran parallel with the one I was on, and it was very obvious this was busier, more commercial, and had pedestrian signs pointing to… well, it was all in Chinese characters so I’m not sure what it was directing people to, but I had to assume it was some sort of shopping area. I did eventually find a pedestrianised district, having walked through a few buildings comprising smaller shops and various stores. This was all done rather randomly and when I emerged in the pedestrian shopping area (I assumed this was what it was by the existence of a Pizza Hut sign) I had no idea where I was in relation to where I started.

In this area there were the usual shops, department stores, and lots of brand names: Starbucks, Adidas, Nike, Levis, Calvin Klein etc. Despite being in China, it wasn’t unlike being in any other large city. Except for the sheer number of people, and the spitting. I’ve heard they’ve managed to cut back the amount of spitting that goes on in Hong Kong, and now I can believe it. It’s not just the spitting, it’s the ever so lovely hacking and gacking that precedes the enormous gob of spit that then flies out of the mouth. I think it’s at it’s worst when you hear it from behind but can’t see it…

I’d converted some HK$ into Chinese yuan (renminbi) which seems to work out at nearly a 1:1 ratio. I saw what looked like the equivalent of an indoor market – and it as hot/humid and I hoped the indoor market would have air conditioning. (As it turned out, not really) I thought I got a lot of hassle at the various markets in Hong Kong… well, it was far worse here. Clearly, being a white Western guy it’s figured I have loads of money to spend and was therefore a good target for pretty much every store. If I even looked at what people were selling I was being hassled, and in some instances being pulled towards their store/counter top. I wandered around here for a bit, and eventually got caught looking at a watch (I’m still annoyed that my original copy Omega lasted all of 10 minutes). Despite all my protests there was no escape from one particular determined woman (they all seemed to be woman stallholders). Despite the complete communication failure between us, I eventually negotiated another Omega copy for 300 yuan. It looks pretty similar to the one I bought in Hong Kong – I’m now of the opinion there is pretty much a factory knocking these out for supply to Shenzhen traders and Hong Kong street markets.

The good news is this one still works at the moment. Unfortunately as I was walking out, I got trapped by another stall holder (actually, ok, I admit it, it was shiny stuff that made me look in the first place) and I now find myself as the owner of a Playstation Portable. I’m not a big games player, have never been a console fan, so why I bought one of these is a complete mystery. I’m going to blame it on the hangover, the heat, and the belief that I needed to spend my yuan. I’m open to ideas as to what to do with my Playstation Portable. It also seemed that my HSBC bank card which had worked flawlessly in Hong Kong wouldn’t work in Shenzhen ATMs. At least that meant I couldn’t spend more money.

Getting back was very straightforward and incident free. Just had to queue up and make sure that when entering Hong Kong again I was entering on the correct visa. I felt pretty good that I’d been able to go to Shenzhen, stumble into the shopping area, somehow head back to the station in the right direction, and then get back into Hong Kong on the working visa. My mood was only really upset later than night when HSBC cash machines were refusing me cash in Hong Kong as well. I had to phone HSBC in the UK, on a Hong Kong pay as you go mobile, and find out why. It seems, after 3 months in Hong Kong, one attempt in Shenzhen was enough to put a block on my card. I was unimpressed. After explaining this problem to the first person who answered the card hotline I was put through to her colleague, who I then had to explain it to again – and he sounded distinctly Indian call centre. At least he then reactivated the card, and I’m back to spending my money again…

3 Responses to “Shenzhen”

  1. dodobrain Says:


    Shenzhen wasn’t too bad when I was there for about 2 weeks. iirc, the main hawker/small_shop place is called the ‘Dongmen area’. Pretty nice place with gazillion shops šŸ˜€

    Oh, its good to know you found your way back to HK, keke

  2. Chris Neal Says:

    Nice to hear of a fellow fake Omega sucker! Sounds like you’re having a bit of an adventure there. I have a PSP too so let me know if you want some tips on good games to buy. Oh yes, and another thing in common. Because I forgot to tell the bank I was going to Malaysia none of my debit cards would give me cash while on holiday!

  3. johniebg Says:

    I never did this but it was very evokative of what we used to do in Singapore. Traipse across the bridge to immigration in Malaysia to get our passports stamped and then go shopping. Copies of Maya, Photoshop and Dreamweaver all purchased for the princely sum of one pound each (I now own real copies of the later two btw šŸ™‚

    I loved the atmosphere in this, could almost feel the humidity.

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