Shenzhen is actually a larger city than Hong Kong, however it is mainly an industrial city. The main tourist attraction is the shopping – loads of people enters from Hong Kong each day to enjoy dirt-cheap shopping. (How enjoyable that is will be further examined later in this post).
Shenzhen is a part of China, and so is Hong Kong nowadays. However, there are border controls between HK and China, and you need a visa to enter China. So first, we had to get our visas. We first went to the Chinese immigration authority. And we quickly realized it wasn’t an option – the room was filled with to-be-immigrants, the queue time could be estimated to hours. We knew that several travel agencies sold visas for a slightly higher price, but without all the hassle. So we went looking in Tsim Sha Tsui, and after rejecting the first agency we found another one, which seemed almost too good. For HKD $450, $50 more than the immigration authority’s price, they gave us a multiple entry, 6-month valid visa, and that within two working days! No queing at all. We still have to find what the catch is
So, this saturday, the 17th of September, we went. Bus to the MTR (the subway system), MTR to the railway station, then a train to Shenzhen, first class (costed us HKD $30 dollars extra). After leaving the train we didn’t realise the amount of time we had to spend in the border controls. First, we checked out from the train. Then, we queued for the end of the Hong Kong border. Then, when we had passed the Hong Kong border we where in a no mans land, because soon we had to line up to get into China. These border controls where more strict, and the employed thermal cameras to look for signs of fever among the travellers. All in all, with the queueing at the borders, the travel time was approximately 2 hours.
So, what to do in Shenzen? I said it was a simple minded trip, and the objective was shopping. Conveniently, a large shopping mall was placed right beside the border. We just walked in. After a couple of minutes in there we realized something. We where hunted. We where the prey. It was somewhat insane, because everyone seemed to sell something to us. It cannot really be described, one has to be there. In each corner stood a group of chinese youngsters. As soon as you approached they started shouting “DVD”, “USB” or other three letter abbreviations. They often followed you, and sometimes grabbed you. If you so much as looked at a store the salespersons (almost always youngsters) came rushing and wouldn’t let you go.
However, dirt-cheap DVD:s (pirate of course) was one of our prime objectives, so we soon followed one of the salespersons. He led us through a maze of stores until we reached a small, closed shop. He, and his friends, let us in the closed shop, filled to the roof with DVD:s. Then we started bargaining. In the end, I payed HKD $140 for a 12DVD box with special extended edition of all three movies in the Lord of the Rings, plus Troy, The Island, The Cinderella Man, Sin City and King Arthur (Director’s Cut). We later realized we could have lowered the prices substantially. Especially when you consider that the DVD-cases almost always are misprinted, that a third of the movies show some kind of quality loss and that some of the DVD:s in the LOTR-box was duplicates (thereby leaving out a lot of extra material).
One has to realize that a lot, maybe almost all, of the stuff being sold at the mall was either copies, fakes or just broken. To mention an example, we got a price quote on a 2 GB SD-card – HKD $180. That SD card must’ve been a really cheap fake. We heard rumours of electronic equipment, stripped of the vital parts, being sold. To shop wisely at Shenzhen requires a lot of experience and patience.
We also realized that the grandness of the shopping mall was an illusion. In the end there seemed to be only a few types of stores selling either watches, shoes, clothes, electronics, bags or DVDs. Everywhere you looked, you saw the same type of stores.
We stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants in the mall. We decided to be bold and ordered roasted pigeon, which ended up being quite good, however not hunger satisfying. Claes and Jeffrey went for an one hour massage costing HKD $30 while me and Patrick took a walk around the area to see something of Shenzhen. Not much to be seen…
The last piece of action was getting through the border controls. At the Hong Kong borders they have customs personell keeping an eye out for illegal goods, such as pirated DVD:s (sigh). We made it through, but it was exciting Well back home we concluded that Shenzhen needed to be visited many times to be fully enjoyable.