Something About Shenzhen

OCT LOFT in Shenzhen

Having had mixed feelings about this city, I’ve been wanting to give Shenzhen another chance.

Growing up, I’d perceived Shenzhen—or sumzuhn in Cantonese—as a bad city, full of crooks…or things I don’t remember now that just sounded negative to a younger me. Despite literally not knowing anything else about it, I’d based my opinion of this mysterious Chinese city on what I heard from my parents whenever they talked about it.

Turns out, my parents first met each other in Shenzhen. In the Crowne Plaza hotel near the railway station.

Now, the only negative thing I hear generally is that because it’s such a new city that China has basically constructed to be a special economic zone, people don’t like it for its lack of culture and history. As for my mom, I think she just dismissed her complaints when I asked her about them, partly because the city, much like the rest of the country, has transformed so much since she first lived and worked there. I still want to ask what it was like back then.

So now, the largest Internet company Tencent and many tech companies are headquartered in this city, which some may call the Silicon Valley of the East.

When I first moved to China in July, within the first week I went to Shenzhen for a job interview. Bizarre interview aside, I had dinner with my mom’s friends at a restaurant famous for coconut chicken at OCT Harbour, a magical place that reminded me of Shanghai’s Xintiandi. Without having seen much else in Shenzhen, I decided that I “loved” Shenzhen.

Looking back, the experience was more terrible than good, meaning I would rather not talk about that trip at all. I made a lot of mistakes, and I like to think that I’ve grown up since then, but when traveling, I still find myself in situations in which I feel so unprepared, immature, and embarrassed.

Anyway, that’s all to say that on Thursday, I decided to return to this city and make a day trip out of it—don’t worry, I still have a job and work, but it’s just that this weekend is the Qingming Festival, and I have to work on Sunday and Monday (day of festival) when everyone else escapes to Hong Kong or returns to their hometowns for “tomb sweeping.” With the other foreigner covering Thursday and no obligation to go to the office, I decided to escape. Plus, the pollution has been particularly choking lately, so I was hoping that Shenzhen would provide some solace for my poor lungs (it didn’t).

Thanks to China’s high-speed railway network, from the time I got in Didi to go to the train station to when I got off the train in Shenzhen, it took just two hours. Maybe it was better that I failed so hard the first time going to this city so that I would remember to bring my passport this time, despite staying within the country.

When I arrived, the under-100 AQI I was hoping for (my standards for air quality have dropped significantly) ended up inching closer and closer to that of Guangzhou (150s to 200s), fogging up the blue skies I had expected. #SAD

The weather in South China has also been warming up, with temperatures reaching the 80s (high 20s for Celsius). So in the polluted, humid weather, I walked around trying to find the Indian restaurant I found on Foursquare, which was also near a high-end shopping mall I remember going to last time I was here, so I figured if I couldn’t find it, then I would just go to the mall for lunch.

And of course I couldn’t. I settled on some good curry fried rice at a Hong Kong-style restaurant in the mall. I then made my way to the metro to go to OCT LOFT, where I planned to spend the rest of the afternoon. Awkward timing, though, as I visited right after the Shenzhen Fashion Show and French film screenings, and right before the flea market apparently on the first weekend every month.

Still, I enjoyed taking pictures of all the #ART in an area that’s pretty much 798 in Beijing, Redtory and TIT Park in Guangzhou, even Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei. It truly feels like once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to all—except I’ve actually been to all. So yeah, despite the cool hipster-ness to the place, I found myself thinking how much better it would be going with someone else. Places like these are better with others.

After an hour at a coffee shop, I frantically escaped as soon as a man sat at the table next to mine and lit up a cigar. My lungs have had enough abuse, thank you.

I then took the metro to Laojie, exploring and enjoying the more interesting scenes of Shenzhen’s “old streets.”

And so I headed off to my next destination—Queen Spa and Dining.

And let me tell you, it was quite the experience. That coming soon.

But before I leave, here’s a pleasant screenshot to summarize the shitty polluted days!

Airpocalypse pollution app