The final part of our trip will be 11 days in China. After breakfast, we made our way to the Kowloon West station for the 14 minutes high speed rail (HSR) ride to the Shenzhen Futian station. This HSR just opened on September 23, 2018 and is the only Chinese high-speed railway to cross a border that requires immigration and customs clearance.
Although there are automated machines for purchasing the tickets, we had to go to the customer service counter to purchase the ticket in person, as travel documents are required for the purchase. The automatic machine will only accept the smart e-channel IDs (for HK Chinese registered for travelling to China). We are using our Canadian passport to enter China so must purchase the ticket at the service counter. The ticket cost was $78 HKD ($10 USD). Cash, credit card, debit cards, WeChat pay, Apple pay, and various other method of payment are accepted.
Then we proceeded with immigration clearance. We scanned out of Hong Kong using our HK permanent residence ID, then walked through to China immigration for entry. We presented our Canadian passport with the China Visa. We were photographed and fingered printed as part of the process.
Everything was very smooth. There were no long lines. We could see that the infrastructure has been built to handle huge volumes in the future. There were many courteous staff directly us to the right area for processing. It was more like an airport than a train station. When we arrived at the right “gate”, there was still 30 minutes before our train’s schedule departing time. We were able to use the free wi-fi provided during the waiting period. Just like an airport, there were numerous announcements over the public address system regarding various trains departing for other destinations within China.
We boarded the train to our assigned car and seats, 10 minutes before departure. The train left right on time and exactly 14 minutes later, we arrived at the Shenzhen Futian station.
Futian station connects to the Shenzhen metro system. Our hotel is close to the Huaquing Road metro station so we were able to conveniently hop on the metro system to transfer to our hotel. The metro experience felt eerily similar to the Hong Kong transit system – cheap and efficient. It looks like it is being run by the same MTR company. The only difference was the requirement to submit bags to a security scan before entering the metro line passenger areas.
For our city orientation, we decided to visit Shenzhen’s Lianhuashan Park, a 150 hectre urban park that will provide a good view of the city. On the way to the metro station, we walked across a section of the underground corridor with 3 long rows of small businesses selling small integrated circuits (IC) and components, probably as part of smart phone devices and other electronics. There was staff sorting through these IC circuit boards, removing components, or putting components into place. We could not believe there were so many stores all doing the same things.
Shortly after walking pass the rows of trees that form a nice boulevard entrance to Lianhuashan Park, we came upon a big grass clearing area where many people were flying kites or simply relaxing and watching the kite flying activities.
We watched for awhile, then proceeded to walk up the hill to the square to find the Deng Xiao Ping statue. The statue was impressive but it was the view of the city that had us gasping.
We last visited Shenzhen 10 years ago, and we have heard and read about the city’s progress. But actually seeing it left us speechless. There were more skyscrapers completed in Shenzhen in the year 2016 than in the whole of the USA and Australia combined, such is the rate at which the skyline is being transformed.
Shenzhen’s economic output is higher than that of small countries like Portugal, Ireland, and Vietnam. The most important sector is of course being the headquarter to many of China’s high tech companies, including many that are highly successful globally.
We had steered away from Shenzhen in the past, with its reputation as being just a place to buy cheap knock off goods, an unorganized city full of tacky stores, bad traffic, or even high crime rate. But just 10 years later, this is no longer the case. We find a city, at least within the central areas that we visited, to be green, clean, light traffic, minimal air pollution, and relative well-mannered young people. The only down side for us appears to be the transformation of Cantonese being the city language, to Mandarin being the language for the city as the influx of immigrants from other parts of China are unwillingly to learn Cantonese.
After spending some time admiring the skyline, we proceeded down the hill, passing a coconut grove, then to the two lakes at the other side of the park. There were people relaxing, picnicking, and some jogging and exercising. There was even an area with talented karaoke singers.
Upon leaving the park, we proceeded to walk over to the Civic Center square as we had spotted the big curved roof of the beautiful structure from the peak of Lianhuashan Park. We were able to snap a couple of nice sunset pictures at this beautiful Civic Square before heading back to our hotel using the metro.
As we traveled back to our hotel, we were thinking about our recent trip, just 4 months ago, to California’s Silicon Valley, where we visited friends who studied, work and live there through Silicon Valley’s ascension years. Their viewpoints on Shenzhen’s rise would be interesting.
In the evening, we strolled across the street from our hotel to the Huaquingbei road, a pedestrian only street that is the first electronic street in China. The street was still full of activity at 9:00 pm. We recognized many electronic brand names but many were unfamiliar to us.
The Huaqiangbei road pedestrian shopping mecca stretches one kilometer long and is mirrored by an underground mall stretching the same distance, the largest of its type in China. It certainly may rival or even have surpass the Akihabara area in Tokyo.