Shenzhen in a day
A visit to Shenzhen is like travelling into the future.
On a recent business trip to China, I had the rare luxury of a free day to explore the young, dynamic, and innovative city of Shenzhen, located in the Greater Bay area which includes Hong Kong, Macao, and Guangzhou.
Although I had been to China at least half a dozen times before, Shenzhen challenged my pre-conceived views of what a typical Chinese city should be. These prejudices were: poor air quality, severe traffic congestion and unordered traffic rules, disagreeable social norms, and being challenging for non-Chinese speaking visitors to navigate the city.
I was wrong, so very wrong.
Shenzhen is known as the young tech company of China, and the world for that matter. As a result of these innovative companies driving the city's economy and influencing city design, the air quality in the city of 15 - 19 million (official/unofficial) residents was comparatively good. The electric vehicle company, BYD, has a strong foothold in the city, with all buses and most taxis operating on 100% electric power. Not only are tech giants such as DJI, Huawei, and TenCent based in Shenzhen, so are thousands of international startups; this is due to the innovation ecosystem that exits in the young 40 year old city.
I have vivid memories of sitting in Beijing traffic for over an hour to travel 4 km. The smart city design and public transport infrastructure ensures that my Capital City experience was not reflected in Shenzhen. As a pedestrian, I never waited more than a minute to cross an intersection, nor did I ever feel like I was going to be run over. Although, the high proportion of electric vehicles is not just observed visually, but also by a quiet hum which characterises Shenzhen traffic.
Navigating around Shenzhen was surprisingly easy. Taxis are metered and relatively economical, however, I would recommend visitors to explore the city through its extensive underground rail system. Signage is in both Chinese and English, and it costs a mere 5RMB ($1AUD) to travel from one end of the city to the other. Similar to the experience above ground, the volume and behaviour of riders were no different to what you'd expect in Sydney.
So you've a day in the Guangdong city of Shenzhen? Here is what I suggest.
First of all, ensure you have sufficient cash (RMB) as although electronic payment methods are popular, they are not accessible by foreign visitors, and merchant capabilities to accept Visa or MasterCard are limited.
With your wads of cash, travel along the MRT on line 1 or line 2 and stop off at the Window of the World. Here you can spend 2 - 3 hours exploring miniature replicas of the iconic sites we all aspire to visit such as the Pyramids of Egypt, Eiffel tower, Statue of Liberty, and of course, the Sydney Opera House and Uluru.
After wandering around the world, hop back onto the MRT and head for Louhu, the end of the line where you can continue onward to Hong Kong, or try your luck at bargaining whist picking up new toys for yourself and loved ones at the Louhu marketplace. Here you will find levels upon levels of 'real' fake watches, electronics, handbags, clothes etc. I recommend starting at 1/3rd of the asking price.
After a whirlwind of negotiation, wind down at OCT Harbour, a modern night time district full of interesting architecture, live entertainment, and a wide selection of bars, restaurants, and tea-houses.
Travel to Shenzhen is easy. Shenzhen Airport serve 50 million passengers annually and offer over 48 international direct destinations. Its proximity via high speed rail to Guangzhou and Hong Kong further increases air travel options.
I live in the capital city of Darwin which is the closest point between China and Australia. At time of writing, Shenzhen and Darwin is served by Donghai Airlines, operating a Boeing 737 - 800 twice a week. To book, I suggest using your local travel agent, or an online travel agent, such as trip.com.
I am looking forward to my next visit and I hope you too have been inspired to see what the future will look through a visit to the high tech city of Shenzhen.