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An introduction to Shenzhen

Most visitors to Hong Kong try pack in a visit to Shenzhen, a southern Chinese city, located on the outer fringes of Hong Kong. Shenzhen is accessible by road, ferry air and even by MTR from Hong Kong. The last mentioned route is perhaps the quickest route to get to Shenzhen as it transports you to the Chinese border city in a mere 40 minutes from Hong Kong.
 
To Shenzhen via the Hong Kong MTR network, you need to get to the East Tsim Sha Tsui station in Kowloon and then get the East Rail to Lo Wu, a busy town on the Hong Kong-China border. Once you reach Lo Wu, you need to exit Hong Kong and go through passport control to enter Shenzhen, China. In order to make this crossing, people of most nationalities (Singapore, Japan and Brunei citizens don’t need a visa for a 15 day tourism trip to China) require a visa. The Chinese side of the border is called Luo hu.
 
Shenzhen, today is an affluent, buzzing Chinese port city which until recently (approximately thirty years ago) was a rural village. The Shenzhen metropolis is symbolic of China’s growing economic might and thus the city attracts millions of visitors all year round. Shenzhen, like many other Chinese cities, is a hub for industry and commerce, and it attracts a good mix of business and leisure travelers.

The transformation of Shenzhen from a humble village to one of the most affluent Chinese cities can be traced back to 1979, when it was designated as a Special Economic Zone as part of the economic reform process introduced by the then Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping. Special Economic zones are regions where intensely capitalist policies are followed in an effort to attract foreign direct investment.
 
In order to equip these Special Economic zones with modern technology and business processes, the Chinese government undertook efforts to modernize infrastructure and establish facilities to make these zones attractive to overseas businesses. They also introduced attractive measures such as tax exemptions and incentives for foreign investors. All these various measures succeeded in generating much interest in the SEZs so much so they rapidly transformed from one-time rural villages into the thriving urban centers that they are today.
 
Modern-day Shenzhen is a large, sprawling city and hosts a variety of interesting attractions. The city is fairly easy to navigate for it has a well-developed public transport system made up of public buses, the metro and affordable taxis. Taxi drivers in Shenzhen by and large speak and understand Mandarin, so it helps if you have a card with your destination written out in simplified Chinese to show to the taxi driver who is driving you.
 
Attractions worth visiting
 
If you are on your first trip to Shenzhen, you may want to explore some of its popular sights listed below: -
 
Overseas Chinese Town
The Overseas Chinese Town (Huaqiaocheng) is a theme park situated in the western half of the city. This park is accessible by the Shenzhen metro and features two subsections namely Ecoventure Valley, which has displays of diverse natural environments and Tea Stream Resort Valley, which showcases tea growing and processing. Other amenities on offer include a water golf driving range and indoor tennis court.
 
Shenzhen Window of the World
Shenzhen Window of the World is yet another theme park located in the western half of the city. The theme park’s star attractions are its more than a hundred replicas of famed monuments and landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc. The park is divided into nine main areas, depicting major regions of the world such as the African Continent, Oceania, Asia, Europe and so forth. Shenzhen Window of the World routinely hosts several festivals year round. Popular events include the Cherry Festival, Indian Cultural Week, the International Beer Festival along with celebrations for China National Day (October 1st) and Christmas.
 
Splendid China
Located within the Overseas Chinese Town attraction is Splendid China. Here visitors have the opportunity to view replicas of China’s most famous attractions like Xian’s terracotta warriors, Chengdu’s Leshan Buddha, the Great Wall of China and more within an area that spans a mere thirty hectares. The park also includes other attractions like the ‘Miniature Park’ which features miniature replicas of popular natural and man-made sights in China such as the Li River, the Ancient Observatory of Beijing, the Potala Palace of Tibet and many more.
 
Folk Culture Village
The Folk Culture Village is a cultural attraction that provides China’s various ethnic groups and tribes a platform to display their indigenous cultures. The village displays the habitats of more than 56 indigenous Chinese ethnic groups like the Dai and the Naxi people who hail from Yunnan province, the Uighurs from Mongolia, the Bayi ethnic tribe from Sichuan amongst others. The performers at the village offer an insight into the lives and customs and traditions of these ethnic folk by way of costumes and song and dance performances.
 
Happy Valley
Happy Valley is Shenzhen’s answer to Disney World, and this theme park offers more than a hundred rides through water, land and air. The park is divided into nine sections namely the Spanish Square, Mount Adventure, Playa Maya Water Park, Typhoon Bay, Gold Mine Town, Sunshine Beach, Shangri-La Woods, Cartoon City and Happy Times. The many attractions at Happy Valley guarantee hours of fun for the entire family.
 
Shenzhen Parks
In spite of being a busy, urban center, Shenzhen hosts several leafy parks like Lizhi Park (downtown Shenzhen) and Fairy Lake Botanical Garden (located in the northeast corner of the city). Exotic tropical blooms, pavilions and teahouses are available onsite at Shenzhen’s verdant parks.
 
Dameisha and Xiameisha
Shenzhen as a coastal city, unsurprisingly, also hosts spectacular beachfront areas. Dameisha and Xiameisha are Shenzhen’s famed beach zones that border the South China Sea and provide locals and visitors a chance to take in some fun in the sun during the summer months. Shenzhen’s beaches offer classic summertime pursuits like swimming, diving, sea kayaking, windsurfing, beach volleyball and sunbathing.
 
Di Wang Building Viewing Point
Di Wang Building located in the heart of Shenzhen affords stunning vistas of the Shenzhen cityscape and Hong Kong from its viewing chamber on the 68th floor.
 
Minsk World
Minsk World is perhaps the most unusual attraction in Shenzhen for the park occupies a decommissioned Soviet warship and hence offers a truly unique experience. Soviet propaganda posters, military uniforms and equipment including nuclear warheads, are on display at Minsk World along with stimulators for high-tech weapons and air and spacecraft. Traditional Russian dance performances and military parades are other attractions onboard the Minsk World. An allied attraction is adjacent Minsk Square, which offers a range of shopping and dining options.
 
Shekou Sea World
Shekou Sea World aims to provide visitors with Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong experience. However, the bars and restaurants that populate Shekou Sea World are not situated within a nightlife enclave like the famed nightlife district of Hong Kong, rather they are located within the hotel and entertainment complex onboard a stationary luxury ship. This 1960’s era luxe vessel, Minghua (formerly known as Anceveller) was once the property of French President, Charles De Gaulle. The Chinese acquired the vessel in 1973 and anchored it in Shekou, Shenzhen. They then went to convert the grand yacht into a nightlife and entertainment complex, which is extremely popular with locals and visitors alike.
 
Shopping in Shenzhen
If you enjoy shopping, you will find yourself in heaven in Shenzhen for the city boasts of excellent shopping options. The most famous shopping destination in Shenzhen is Luohu Commercial City, a five- story mall crammed to the rafters with stores offering designer goods knockoffs, children’s wear, accessories, artworks, Chinese tea and much more. The mall also hosts several massage centers and beauty salons that offer shoppers a chance to relax and regroup in the midst of hectic shopping sprees. Other popular shopping haunts in Shenzhen include Huaqiang Bei, Shenzhen’s electronics market, Dongmen Market and Laojie Shopping Street. Also worth a visit is Shenzhen’s Dafen Oil Painting Village, which offers a plethora of artworks of every type, originals as well as reproductions.

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