China's Shenzhen: From Rice Fields To Riches...

During Chinese Spring Festival 2016, I crossed over to Hong Kong via Shenzhen. Crossing over the land border at 罗湖口岸 was an experience that 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 some 广东 questions to ask this former fishing village. Shenzhen held a second chance to make memories!

Flying down to Shenzhen at a leisurely from PEK 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 had probably spent less than two hours there the previous time and 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 during my first day in Shenzhen. Climbing for what seemed like one thousand steps I reached the top of Lianhuashan Park. I was 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. 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, I did just that! I wanted that view! The warmth of Shenzhen had me feeling summery! 

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 cloudy 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 a development changed those former rice fields into land for modern day towering skyscrapers. 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! I sensed that the sunshine would be interrupted by some shade! 

Getting a bit lost helped me find my original destination in the end, losing track of museums I reached the Shenzhen Museum within good time. I wasn't alone, that was turning out to be a right old choice! 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, although HK remained British for 155 years even though the official lease was 99 years. Shenzhen isn't known as an international tourism destination, it's known for its electronics, dubbed more powerful than Cali's Silicon Valley. Yes, that's some colonial cray! 

Getting lost in the first exhibit about the British handover of Hong Kong and the 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. The photo that is captured above is of the former 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 discriminatory towards the British rule in Hong Kong. The British Empire, it happened and in whatever way it was retold, I kept those opinions of HK's British rule at the museum. As a British person, I always find it interesting to learn more about the British Empire. After having a relative who had brought her family up in HK, I wanted to take notice of the exhibits at the Shenzhen Museum. 

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. I had walked into 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. That dip wasn't really the weather, it was the company I found myself amongst. 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! Let it go, SZ! 

No, that couldn't have been 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 in-fact 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. Before 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! Go!

My fourth and final element of Shenzhen's exotic city scene was served to me as 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 the renovated art scene, pricey shops and exclusive eateries. That immediate sight 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 feeling a bit tired, the day had been jammed pack with a lot! OCT looked very trendy! 

Tired beyond belief, I had walked 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. Back to school, I received a lesson about the British days in Hong Kong at the Shenzhen Museum, it was certainly 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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