What do you get when you merge nine mega-cities and two regions? A combined population of over 67 million and a GDP that's predicted to reach US$4.6 trillion by 2030.
If you are visiting, day touring or moving to Shenzhen for work or business then this is the must-have guidebook, Essential Shenzhen.
A relaxed morning with a table full of delicious sweet and savory treats, with trolleys passing at regular intervals offering up even more, sound like your kinda thing? Then for sure you’ll be a fan of Dian Xin, also referred to as Yum Cha.
It’s a specialty of Guangdong province and it’s not to be missed. It’s also wildly popular in Hong Kong of course, but here’s a hot tip, head to Guangdong where it’s only part the price and sometimes twice as good. I’ll suggest a few places later in the post.
Looking for a nearby escape from the mega-metropolises of Shenzhen or Guangdong? Then this place is probably just for you. Fresh air, nature and simple laid back life make this small city a gem.
I shouldn’t say small, actually, it’s quite large in size, being a prefecture-level city that has numerous other cities under its wing. The actual Qingyuan city is quaint and comfortable in many ways, it abounds with nature and features a beautiful river, the Beijiang, running through its center.
Hotels are chosen based on suitability, overall value, star rating, location and visitor reviews.
Shenzhen was a city that I spent a lot of time in, living there for more than two years. It’s convenient, with it’s metro system, and offers a lot of western comforts. It is mainly visited for its significant electronics industry, proximity to Hong Kong, and job opportunities but it also offers tourist attractions and value shopping.
The Top 15 Hotels in Shenzhen
Hilton Shenzhen Shekou Nanhai
Area: Nanshan, Shenzhen
Located in Shekou District, Shenzhen, offering outdoor pool and indoor pool. Free Wi-Fi access is available in all public areas.
Some months back, while in Shenzhen, I had the opportunity to visit an Electric Balance Scooter factory, or if you like, Hoverboard factory.
A lot of the LED factories, e-cigarette factories in Shenzhen are located in the sub-districts, such as Shajing which is where we headed. Now, when the word factory is mention you may have conjure up images of large sheds or warehouse type buildings, yes there is those, but actually many manufacturers start out in industrial bases which are simply row after row of multi-level concrete slab buildings, nothing glitzy nor glamorous.
This is a spectacular place, beautiful, peaceful and simple. I was truly fortunate to have an old friend in town who offered me a chance to tag a long with a family trip to this beautiful spot. this trip was to Sanmen Dao (Sanmen Island) which is off the coast of Shenzhen, but I think technically its part of Huizhou.
Actually I’d thought I’d lost all the photos from this trip, but I have managed to find four!
After driving to Dapeng Peninsula from Baoan and then to Dongchong Beach where after arriving late at night we hired some tents and set up camp on the beach for the night. Whats more peaceful than going to sleep listening to the waves roll in?
Here’s a hot tip. Don’t overstay your visa, they really don’t like it. Over the four years or so of staying in China I was always on time with renewing my visa, in which case I would travel to Hong Kong and get it renewed, or, go to the local PSB (Public Security Bureau) in the mainland and get it renewed there.
This time, through bad planning and stupidity, I had overstayed the visa by about four days, so I went down to the PSB at Louhu in Shenzhen, and was informed that I was to be given a deport notice and that I should leave the country. Dramatic! I explained that I had an apartment and other concerns to take care of, he said he would give me a 7 day visa to take care of my things. Also needing a new passport, they kindly allowed me extra time to arrange a passport replacement and then return to the PSB to get the 7 day visa pasted in.
Respite from the heat.. Without many other options the metro station is a popular place to cool down and rest…
The Spring Festival is a fifteen day celebration where most Chinese people have at least seven days holiday, and within the festival is the beginning of the Chinese New Year. It’s a very special time for Chinese.
For my first year in China, my first Spring Festival began in Shenzhen where I witnessed the effects of the mass migration of workers back to their home cities (see:). Also in Shenzhen I was lucky enough to watch an unimaginable display as every city block was alight with fireworks, with a roof top view, for as far as the eye could see, all that could be seen was a sky filled with color.
Without a doubt the most important date on the Chinese calender – the Lunar New Year and the beginning of the Spring Festival. This year it falls on February 3. Most all workers will get 7 days off work and head home for celebrations and reunion with family.
More about the festival itself later, but the actual lead up to the beginning of the festival has to be, in terms of scale, one of the planets most staggering migrations. There’s over 1.3 billion people live here and they all want go home at the same time!
Here is another one of those traditional Chinese shopping districts that I’ve come to admire, they span for block after block, most of them have been operating for centuries, they’re vibrant, teaming with life, and they’re packed with keen sellers waiting to do deals. These traditional marketplaces have soul, and character that the modern shopping complexes just don’t have. And the Dongmen, aka Laojie, market area of Shenzhen is no different.
On my first visit I was looking for ‘Dongmen Pedestrian Street’, expecting a casual automobile-less street with some shops, but what I found was more like a ‘shopping suburb’ spanning several blocks including countless brand name shops, several multi-level malls, several multi-level markets, food streets, public spaces, ad-hoc stalls set up in alleyways and in every nook and cranny possible. Such is the expanse of this shopping district it needs three KFC’s!
The city of Shenzhen is already well known for it’s shopping options and it’s big modern malls but there’s now a new one on that list, the KK Mall.
KK Mall is part of a large development which includes residential apartments and a financial offices tower which when completed will become Shenzhens tallest building standing at a whopping 441.8 meters. The tower will also feature a five star hotel (of the St Regis chain). The shopping mall section opened to the public on the 26-11, so I went along for a look.
The city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong is starting to become very well known for it’s hi-tech industry base which has been a big part of the city’s success so appropriately it’s also home to the China Hi-Tech Fair which is claimed to be the number 1 tech show in China. So, how could I not go for a look!
The show has been held every year since 1999 and attracts both visitors and exhibitors from both locally and overseas. The event is held at the Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center which provides a whopping 105,000 Sqm of floor space for exhibitors filling the 9 separate halls, along with conference and function facilities for the many forums and meetings that are held daily during the event.
Need an oil painting? Heres the perfect place to find one amongst what is an ‘Oil Painting Village’, artists live and work pumping out all sorts of original pieces and the odd replica. How many artists? No one seems exactly sure but many say there could be a staggering 10,000 artists and nearly 1000 galleries operating within this very special enclave.
The figures are sketchy but claims are made that this village is responsible for something like 60-70% of the worlds oil painting production.
UPDATE: The Minsk has now closed and is in process of relocating to Nantong, Jiangsu. So where do you go when you want to explore a second generation Soviet aircraft carrier? Shenzhen China of course.
This floating behemoth was purchased from the Soviets by Korea just after the cold war ended, and was then purchased by a businessman in the late 90’s to create an ‘aircraft carrier theme park’ here in Shenzhen.
It’s not cheap to explore, at least by comparison to the major theme parks in the Shenzhen area like OCT East, Happy Valley, Window of the World etc etc but if you’re into this sort of thing then it’s probably worth the visit. The real unfortunate part of the them park is the fact that it’s looks a little neglected, and there is some reports going around that the park is facing some financial difficulties and at the time of writing the park is going up for sale.
In China there seems to be plenty of privately run bus services running here, there and everywhere but for a foreigner it’s usually much easier and simpler to just buy a train ticket. But in some cases the going via bus can provide huge time savings.
This is especially the case going from Xiamen to Shenzhen (or even Hong Kong). At the moment there isnt actually a train running direct between those places, but they are building a line to carry a fast (220km/h) train which is expected to be completed some say late this year, some say next year.
Shenzhen is one of China’s more modern cities and it’s a place where there’s a strong focus on clean energy sources and on reducing pollution. It’s also where one of China’s more well known car makers resides, BYD. So what do you get when a bus company, a car company and some government help come together?
A fleet of full electric taxis. They now have 40 full electric cars operating as taxis and plans for 100 this year and 500 or more in the future. The car is the BYD E6 which is a small five door similar in size to a Hyundai Getz. By chance, I caught a ride in one from the metro station to the hotel.
UPDATE: the ferry terminal has moved to a new nearby building, see here for updated info. There are multiple ways to get from Shenzhen to Macau including via bus, ferry or even a helicopter. Being in Nanshan District of Shenzhen I chose to go via the ferry at the nearby Shekou Port.
Shekou Port is pretty simple, basically, it’s just one big room, and as you walk through the front door head left to see the ticketing counters where there is even staff who thankfully speak English. At the terminal, there is a small stall selling items from a bakery, a couple newsstands and a stand selling mobile phone sim cards for Hong Kong and Macau. There is also 2 different ATMs and the one I tried accepted a foreign-issued Visa card, plus there is a currency exchange.
Lots of tasty things, thats what! Theres a little bakery at the bottom of the Maple Leaf Nanshan hotel which I often visit to grab some lunch, the staff are friendly and the food is tasty. Even better is how amazingly cheap it is!
All this cost about 28RMB (or yuan, if you like) which is about $4.80 Australian or $4US.
So for four bucks, that’s one small milk, one lemon juice, 2 hot dog rolls with cucumber, lettuce and mayonnaise, 2 pork rolls with tomato and cucumber and one pizza slice. In Australia I know that you could get one of the drinks at least!
Kempinski is a European luxury hotel chain and they have a hotel in Nanshan District of Shenzhen, and it’s one of the citys leading 5 star hotels. I haven’t had the pleasure of staying except to say that its in a great spot close to the new Coastal City Shopping Center which features a mix of retail shops, luxury brand retail shopping and many restaurants.
Susan and I went to the Kempinski for its very popular Dim Sum breakfast. DimSum is often referred to as Yum Cha and its a style of cooking that was founded right here in the Guandong Province, I really enjoy this stuff so I couldn’t be in a better place!
I was heading to the trade fairs that are held every year in Guangzhou, in particular, the Canton Fair and lucky for me there’s a regular fast train between Shenzhen Railway Station and Guangzhou East (Guangzhoudong).
There are many trains running through the day on this route, about 24 trains a day, from early morning to early night. It takes just over an hour for the trip although some trains take a little longer at over 2 hours, maybe they stop at more stations but I’m not sure.
For my first trip, I booked a standard ticket at 75 yuan ($11) and it was a modern comfortable train, it was a D series train if you know your China trains. The only downside is that the seats are a little cosy.
It had been a hectic schedule from the start of my trip back in Kuala Lumpur then to Chengdu and then around some of Chinas great cities and sights, so it was time to take it easy for a while. Plus I was a little keen to spend some time with a new friend, so Shenzhen was a perfect place to settle for a while.
I also needed to catch up on some work, and some writing! When I came back from Hong Kong I settled in at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Nanshan District of Shenzhen. It’s a comfortable place at a great rate which I’m sure I’ll speak more about in a later post. Susan arranged the deal which made things pretty easy for me. It’s also right next door to her apartments, hmmm, how convenient!
After leaving the China Sourcing trade fair and I headed back to Mong Kok and picked up my passport with its new visa, then from there to Tsim Sha Tsui to get my bag from the Cosmic Guest House. Then in a taxi over to Hung Hom Station to catch the train to Lo Wu (note its called Lo Wu on the Hong Kong side and Luo hu or Luohu on the Shenzhen side) which is the entry point to China mainland leading into the city of Shenzhen.
This time I purchased a first class ticket, I felt like sitting down during the 30 minute journey to the Lo Wu border! I made just one mistake, by the time I get off the train and through the border crossing formalities, it would be close to 6pm. Just when everyone finishes work!
Shenzhen is right next door to Hong Kong which worked out very handy for me as my visa was about to expire. Hong Kong being a Special Administrative Region of China is just like going to another country, so, it’s a popular place to visit and explore, and to then get a new visa if you wish to return to back China.
There are several ways to get to Hong Kong from Shenzhen, including the ferry, but for this trip, I chose to go on the train. Apparently, this is the most popular way to get across to Hong Kong via the Luo Hu Border.
I found and booked this place via the cTrip website and it seemed to be a reasonable compromise between price and comfort at just under 200RMB ($31AUD) and still in the Nanshan District of Shenzhen. I stayed here just before heading over to Hong Kong.
The place isn’t really close to anything, but at the same time it’s not too expensive to get a taxi to anywhere you need to go. If you after reasonable budget accommodation in Nanshan it’s probably worth checking the rates.
The place is starting to show its age but for a budget price it passes ok. The rooms are kept clean, but the carpets in the room I had graced a few stains. Otherwise everything works, the shower is clean, plenty of pressure and hot water and free toiletries included (toothbrush, soap, comb, etc.).
So I’m told if your after electronics or digital products there’s no better place to buy than in Shenzhen, China. This is backed up by the large number of electronics factories in the city, many global brand name products like the Apple iPhone and iPad are copied, I mean made, right here in Shenzhen too.
There are many electronics markets in the city too, but lucky me, Susan being a local took me to the number one place to go electronics shopping in Shenzhen, if not the whole of China. It’s the Huaqiangbei electronics market area ( I think they call it Huaqiangbei Commercial Area) and it’s mind bogglingly big, apparently many gadget lovers and techies have entered this area and never been seen again! Just one of the multi-level electronics mega-stores is enough to blow your mind, but the fact that there’s numerous of them sprawling for block after block is just amazing.
The Shenzen OCT East is is a combination of two large theme parks, resort hotels, three small scenic towns, golf courses and more covering an area of 9 square kilometers. It’s huge. I guess you could call it destination tourism, a man-made one-stop holiday wonderland.
Packed into one big location are adventure, excitement, wonder, thrills and eye-opening sights matched together with comfort and relaxation.
OCT East is located a little out of the way, about 40 minutes or so from central Shenzhen by bus or taxi. It’s another tourist attraction where its best to arrive early and beat the long entry lines due to volumes people arriving by tour buses! Admission is 150RMB and then you can choose which, or all, of the sections you’d like to see. We chose the ‘Knight Valley’. The other sections include Tea Stream Valley and Huaxling Temple.
The Holiday Inn is an American hotel chain, so, it’s guaranteed that the prices are going to be higher than your run of the mill Chinese hotel. But what do you get for the extra cost?
For a start, the Holiday Inn Donghua in Nanshan District is clean, like, western style clean and has western style service with attention to detail, and all the staff seemed to speak some level of English. Don’t get me wrong, I love roughing it in China, but sometimes the sense of familiarity is comforting.
Shenzhen is an interesting city as it is another city that tells a story about the Chinas economic transformation. Shenzhen was not much more than a fishing village until about thirty years ago when a man named Deng Xiaoping had taken the reins as China’s leader from Mao Zedong in 1978.
Deng Xiaoping had a very different view of macroeconomics from his predecessor and introduced the concepts of free market theory and capitalism, gathered from his visits to the west, that is the foundation of Chinas current success.