Travelers headed to Hong Kong for business
or pleasure can see mainland China's economic miracle for
themselves, thanks to the proximity of booming Shenzhen.
Shenzhen, a fishing village just 30 years ago, is a mere 45-minute
ride from Kowloon via Hong Kong's rapid transit system, making even
day trips feasible. This city of 8 million, designated a Special
Economic Zone in 1979 and growing ever since, offers shopping,
dining and sightseeing.
All that's required
is the round trip rail fare, around $8.95, and a Chinese tourist
visa. After boarding the East Rail line of the Kowloon-Canton
Railway system at East Tsim Tsa Shui station in Kowloon,
Shenzhen-bound travelers pass through Hong Kong's hilly and verdant
New Territories before arriving at the Lo Wu (or, in Mandarin
Chinese, Luo Hu) border station.
must clear China's internal immigration and customs posts. It was a
relatively quick and painless process on a recent visit, contrary
to the guidebook horror stories.
Once across, a
sense of profound deja vu quickly sets in: Shenzhen, like Hong
Kong, is a modern city packed with glittering skyscrapers. One
tower, Shun Hing Square, is the world's ninth-tallest, climbing to
Stepping from the
customs building into the sunlight, visitors are presented with the
city's main rail station on the left and the Luo Hu Commercial City
shopping mall to the right. The latter, packed with vendor stalls
selling everything from chopsticks to Chinese folk art to mobile
phones to pirated DVDs, once offered real bargains but is now more
of a tourist trap. Better prices can be found back in Hong Kong or
at the Hua Qiang Bei retail complex favored by locals. The city
also offers luxury shopping and Western brands at upscale malls
such as Coco Park, KingGlory Plaza and MixC Shopping
A good way to get a
feel for Shenzhen -- and access inner-city theme parks Chinese Folk Culture Villages-Splendid
China, Window of the World and Happy Valley -- is to hop aboard
city bus No. 2.
vehicles, called "sightseeing buses," make a roundtrip circuit on
Shennan Road from the bus station parking lot abutting Luo Hu
Commercial City to Window of the World and back.
The miles of
futuristic skyscrapers along Shennan Road have facades blazing with
neon by night. They stand as silent, towering testaments to China's
unrelenting economic march.
The roundtrip bus
fare, about $1.25, buys an hour or so of jaw-dropping sightseeing.
Fares are paid aboard the bus.
Visitors can hop
off halfway at one of the theme parks. Splendid China and Window of
the World offer miniature replicas of the world's most famous
monuments and buildings, while Happy Valley offers amusements such
as thrill rides, games of chance and restaurants.
theme parks are also accessible more rapidly via Shenzhen's new
metro system; board Line 1, or the green line, at Lo Wu/Luo Hu and
alight at the last stop, Window of the World (Shi Jie Zhi Chuang)
Shenzhen is also
noted for inexpensive massages, of the non-erotic variety. Prices
for full-body treatments range from about $5 to $20 for one- to
two-hour rubdowns. Flier-plying saleswomen hawk massages up and
down Jiangshe Road, near the main train station.
meanwhile, might like the He Xiang Ning Art Museum, China's
second-largest repository of modern art. It's near the Hua Qiao
Cheng station on metro Line 1. Admission is about $2.65.
Spending the night
For all the
bargains available in Shenzhen, the indispensable visa required to
enter from Hong Kong is more of an investment. Fees range from $100
for a single- or double-entry visa processed in four days to $130
for same-day service.
agencies and many hotels in Hong Kong can get visas for visitors
but tack on surcharges. At those prices, travelers may want to make
the most of it and stay overnight in Shenzhen. A good hotel and
dining option near the city's main rail station is the Shangri-La
include hotels operated by Novotel, Kempinski, Crowne Plaza
(opposite Window of the World), Best Western, Four Points by
Sheraton, Holiday Inn and Days Inn.
Shekou, in the
Nanshan District, is home to most of Shenzhen's Western expats. The
bars and restaurants there are well suited to U.S. palates.
Visitors can board ferries back to Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and
Chek Lap Kok Airport in Shekou.
The East Rail line
will be extended to Lok Ma Chau by 2009, with connections to
Shenzhen's Huang Gang metro station. The new station, an additional
access point from Hong Kong, will feature shopping and
from bilingual Hong Kong will note that fewer people are proficient
in English in Mandarin-speaking Shenzhen. However, much street and
subway signage appears in both Chinese characters and
For more on travel
to Shenzhen, call the China National Tourist Office in New York at
(888) 760-8218 or Los Angeles at (800) 670-2228. Or visit www.cnto.org.
contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].