23 February 2018

Shenzhen, China: From Rice Fields To Riches...

During Chinese Spring Festival 2016 I saved my pennies by crossing into Hong Kong via Shenzhen, going over the land border at Luohu was an experience I won't ever forget but my time in Shenzhen flashed before my eyes. Wanting to revisit that Guangdong city had to be done, I had several questions to ask this former fishing village. So, Shenzhen had its second chance!

Leisurely flying down from Beijing with Hainan Airlines, I then effortlessly transferred to the Shenzhen MRT shortly after my slightly delayed arrival into Bao'an International Airport. My previous encounter with Shenzhen had been brief, I probably spent less than two hours there the previous time so I had unfinished business to deal with. Finally on holiday, it felt great to be in Shenzhen, China! Fast forward to the next morning, I was ready to see four places furing my first day in Shenzhen. Climbing what seemed like one thousand steps I reached the top of Lianhuashan Park, in-search for a bronze statue of Deng Qiaoping was the task. People were warming around the statue of the man who commissioned the building of Shenzhen's city frame. Much like the scene I saw in Changsha along the Orange Isle Park, but that was a statue of a young Mao Zedong. I knew which view I wanted to capture and I did just that! I wanted that view S!

With a Birdseye view of Shenzhen's Convention Centre and city skyline I was loving that Guangdong city moment, the sky might have been a bit cloudly with my my new camera I was able to use a filter that gave me a clearer photo. I loved Shenzhen's shiny skyline, being a young city it was one of the sights that I had wanted to see during my Spring Festival trip. Rising from a former fishing village on the border with the former British Overseas Territory of Hong Kong, Deng Qiaoping commissioned for Shenzhen to be crafted into a Special Economic Zone, such development changed those former rice fields into land for modern day towering skyscarpers. It's no secret that the Hong Kong economy boomed before modern Shenzhen was built, the view from Lianhuashan Park proved Shenzhen's mission had been successful from the amount of activity that had took place. Regardless of the hysteria surrounding Deng Qiao Ping's park statue I enjoyed that futuristic view very much!

Getting a bit lost helps me find my original destination in the end, losing track of museums I reached the Shenzhen Museum within good time. Arranged much like Wuhan's Hubei Provincial Museum the Shenzhen Museum opened my eyes to the development and history of Guangdong's second largest city, that after the megacity of Guangzhou. From the upper floors, an aerial view of Shenzhen was portrayed in a very elaborate floor map, the city itself looks utterly massive. Museums aren't usually my thing but being a city that grew from a fishing village I wanted to know more about the boom days of Shenzhen and the Hong Kong days after the territory was given British control after the signing of the Treaty of Nanking for the 99 years lease. For that reason Shenzhen isn't an international tourism destination, its known for its electronics market, dubbed more powerful than California's Silicon Valley. I was so interested!

Getting lost in the first exhibit about the British handover of Hong Kong and its territories I was amazed to the know the ins and out of the Treaty of Nanking and to see the other details of that 99 year long contract. Photo depicted the building of the Canton Railway, seeing the contrast between the local Chinese people and the British Victorian dignitaries posed quite a contrast of cultures and conflicting ideas. Learning about Zhong Ying Street made me want to visit that former British and Chinese controlled street for myself, I would find out some real life truth the next day for certain! I couldn't help but find some of the tone quite discriminatory towards the British rule in Hong Kong, it happened and in whatever way it was retold I kept those opinions in at the museum. Opposite exhibits pushed the ideal of Shenzhen fighting back to not remain in its then British ruled neighbour with fancy displays of the first factories and industrial advances that were made in during its growth.

Shenzhen's growing MRT system showed me the way to Shenzhen Bay Park, at first I thought I was in a construction site if truth be told! Following the crowds it wasn't difficult to find the waters that overlooked Shenzhen's Nanshan District, a waterside community that looked fit for a foreign or an Overseas Chinese person. People were in every direction but I didn't pay them any mind, Shenzhen's Bay had me transfixed on the outlying vistas. I caught the right time to take my photos, regardless of the crowds the warmer climbs of that bayside part felt much better than Beijing's bitterly temperatures, it was lovely to see the sea for a change. Sipping on my coconut juice that I had bought from a local street seller it felt like the perfect combination to have a lovely view and a cold treat to quench my thirst, it felt right. Why had it taken me such a long to see such things in Shenzhen, China?! Those whisperers were distracting me!

No, that's not a bridge?! Seeing a bridge edging over to the west I wondered if it linked the former British Overseas Territory of Hong Kong? Yes, after doing a little detective work I found out that Shenzhen Bay Border Point was introduced after 1949 to curb the amount of Chinese mainland immigrants who were infact classed as 'illegal immigrants' after free movement was halted between China and HK. Shenzhen kept on educating me, I knew deep down that I would return to Shenzhen in the future for a proper nose around, during my 2016 border crossing from Shenzhen to Hong Kong through the Luohu Border Port I may have felt the shadiness of the borderline but something stayed with me. People get harsh on Shenzhen being the located at the borderline with Hong Kong for all of its shady customs issues but the Bay Area astounded me with its understated views. The day was pressing on, finding my way to the same MRT station it was onto my final stop of the day. Run with me Shenzhen!

My fourth and final element of Shenzhen's exotic city scene I stood at the foot of what looked like a disused factory complex? Was it Shenzhen's answer to Birmingham's Custard Factory?! Almost, almost! The OCT Loft transported me to another place with its renovated art scene, pricey shops and exclusive eateries impressed me much, but I wasn't there for their price tag. Being the Chinese New Year holiday it was apparent to see most of the restaurants and shops closed but the deserted post-apocalyptic vibe gave me life regardless of that nature. Set within Nanshan District's Overseas Chinese Town, I wasn't and still I'm not too sure if the 'Overseas Chinese' part meant that the residents were Chinese but had been born outside of the Chinese Mainland? I'll put my hands up and say with conviction I don't know that fact, understood? Sure, it was a trendy hangout where I appreciated the quietness. By then I was tired S!

Tired beyond belief after walking over 30,000 steps during that first day of sightseeing in Shenzhen, I wanted nothing more to return to my hotel for the night to relax. I had seen exactly what I had wanted to see for that day, from the panoramic views of Shenzhen's growing skyline from Lianhuashan Park to the schooling I got from the British days in Hong Kong at the Shenzhen Museum, it was an education. The sweeping views of the Shenzhen Bay alongside that sweeping park area impressed me much and helped me forget the coldness of the country's capital that I was over experiencing. Shenzhen had been much more than the blur that I had previously experienced during my 2016 border crossing period to Hong Kong. The haters will always talk trash about Shenzhen but this former rice field has fashioned itself into a modern powerhouse, rising with its skyscrapers and grasp on the electronics, I gave Shenzhen my full attention! Yes, of course Nanshan's OCT Loft served industrial OCT realness!

Serving Shenzhen!

Joseph Harrison 

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