A Shady Shenzhen Stopover

After a delightful Hangzhou meal surrounded by interesting creatures (take a look at the pictures on Facebook), we prepared to say farewell to the Green City and board another plane to the businessman’s paradise, Shenzhen. Now, it is a fact most interesting that, while the American and Japanese airlines suffered delays, cancellations and other entertaining complications, the Chinese internal flight was free from any mishaps.  There, however, one mildly entertaining occurrence on board the plane.

During the fifteen minute descent to the Shenzhen airport, the plane piped in some soothing music…ironically, it was a new single from that famed artist formerly known as the Chinese Kenny G. Safely cushioned by the music’s numbing effects, the landing was extremely smooth.

Our Cantonese guide (I’ll explain the concept of Mandarin vs. Cantonese tomorrow) described Shenzhen as the business center of China.  It is a very young city, especially by Chinese standards, but it rapidly grows, due to the influx of aspiring businessmen.  Since Shenzhen wasn’t so much a main point of our trip as a stopover en route to Hong Kong, I won’t spend several entries describing its delights; I will, however, tell – in full mellifluous detail – what happened the day after we arrived.  Keep in mind that the sky was still dropping buckets of that peculiar Chinese rain.

Our original schedule intended us to visit a theme park (with an appropriately splendid title). You will, I am sure, find it interesting to know that a Chinese ‘theme park’ does not fit our American image of a theme park.  It is literally a themed park (we have amusement parks, in case you were wondering)…this particular park was based on Chinese history and featured miniatures and a mini-train, and, in a brilliant move, was named Splendid China. Sadly, the splendor was lost on us, for, just as we pulled into the driveway, the rain began to pick up (still in mist form, but more like a shower). You, my dear reader, may picture the amount of said rain when I tell you that it even fazed our hardy YOSA leaders – rather than brave the storm, we fled to an underground shopping mall, partially in the open, but mostly covered.

This mall was made up of several buildings built over and beneath the ground; we went into the main building, which had a subway on the lowest level and eight stories above it. The main shape was a giant circle, with paths like the spokes of a wagon radiating out into the back alleys. The entire place seemed very underground (besides the literal meaning), yet we could see that it was a busy livelihood for the vendors.  In this mall, the vendors were closer to those of Shanghai, but with Beijing personalities. They owned small shops packed together on each floor and stood outside on the landing, chasing unsuspecting tourists. One particularly determined man chased my group around the entire perimeter! Sadly, it was soon time to go, and, laden with chopsticks and several bags of tea leaves (which I have yet to try), we boarded the bus to the final leg of the journey – Hong Kong.

Michael Vybiral

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