Shenzhen, China: Southern China Modernity
Shenzhen, the fastest developing city in the world, is located within the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong, China—a miraculous home to an estimated 12 million people. Just across the sea from Hong Kong, Shenzhen is notoriously known for it’s high-tech industry, endless number of skyscrapers, and its large community of expats. As a former expat myself, I would like to give you an insight to this city and hopefully you can make the most of your visit while in this astounding place!
Only a few decades ago, Shenzhen was nothing more than a tiny fishing village in the south of China. Then with administrative efforts it was established as a special economic zone as China was opening its doors to free trade. What started of as a place for cheap labor production, a few decades later developed into a city of high quality labor and produces a large array of consumer electronics and many more high-tech products.
Shenzhen is a relatively bilingual city with most locals speaking both Mandarin and Cantonese (dialects of Chinese), although Mandarin is more common. The large majority of locals do not speak more than a few words of English so prepare to brush up on some Mandarin before visiting. I would recommend by starting to learn 你好 (ni hao which means hello) and 谢谢 (xie xie which means thank you).
Shenzhen is such a young city, so it is difficult to find true ‘locals’. A great heap of people migrated from small rural towns in China in hope for a better life than their small-town farmer ancestors. This makes Shenzhen a hub for all types of Chinese food. It is truly unbelievable how many distinct types of Chinese food you can find here. I would recommend dim sum, a good ol’ bowl of hot noodles, and fried rice as must try delicacies. On top of the local Chinese cuisine, and due to the large expat community in the district of Shekou, it is possible to find a plethora of foreign restaurants ranging from Indian and Thai, to French and Italian cuisine. Thus, if Asian food does not suite your palate, I recommend going to any one of these restaurants which are mainly located in SeaWorld. An extra tip for young people is to try some delicious street barbeque (as opposed to McDonalds) after a night out in the bars and clubs of SeaWorld, Coco Park, or Lou Hu.
Once you have had enough of the city I would recommend catching a break from it all in DaMeixia beach which is no Hawaiian, Fiji, Thai, or Filipino beach, but it is a relatively nice get away from the city. You can rent speed boats and jet skis for relatively cheap prices and go for a rip in the tides. If that is not your cup of tea, you can go hiking in the city or right outside of it. Go climb a few thousand stairs to the top of NanShan mountain in the middle of the city and snap a great panorama of the view. If you are looking for more culture, another top tourist attraction includes Windows of the World, a theme park that depicts the world in miniature size. If your interest lies more in local culture then right beside it is the cultural village which is the same but with miniature China. Shenzhen also has its fair share of parks that are in dispersed around city such as Li Zhi park, Si Hai park, and many more beautiful acres of greenery that bring life to the concrete jungle.
(Photos by Bernard Spragg)
Last but not least, if you are already in the area I highly recommend jumping on a quick ferry to Hong Kong and Macau for a day each so you can experience non-mainland China. Both of these island are unique and are most definitely worth the trip. Shenzhen is not a usual tourist destination and does not boast many tourist attractions, but it is without doubt one of the nicer modern cities in China.