Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why Shenzhen?

Ah, my first full day in Shenzhen! Waking up in my cubicle
disoriented... wait: disoriented?

Sure! It is very disorienting to sleep in a room with no window. You
can't tell what time it is by the light filtering in because there is
none. And there is no ventilation. Because the temperature was just
right I didn't turn on the climate control system. Now, at wake-up, I
find the air stuffy and close. Flipping a few switches made short work
of that problem, even though the air now circulating was canned.

Back to the start of this entry: my first full day here, fully rested
and now oriented thanks to the fact that I can see outside from the
hotel dining room deck. That's right: the second floor of the hotel is
dedicated in part to the entertainment of its patrons. That is where
the computers are, where one can purchase a quality meal for a
relatively low cost, watch TV or play foosball or pool, or just lounge
on the deck. The weather being glorious I ate breakfast on the deck.

After that meal I headed to the computer stations, read and responded
to emails and then researched Shenzhen. What is there to do or see

The city of Shenzhen was built on the ruins of a small fishing village
along the banks of the river. Designated a special economic zone in
1980 by Deng Xiao Ping, he who brought about the economic revolution
in China after Mao's death, the city was born. Gone is virtually any
vestige of Bao-tong, the village that was home to maybe 400 people.
Because of its strategic location - near waterways, a gateway to Hong
Kong and a hub to cities deeper south, this metropolis is now home to
all manner of commercial ventures, trade companies and financial

From what I could read on various websites there are few traces of the
original village left and there are virtually no iconic architecture
or traditional/historical landmarks. In desperation I consulted, a go-to site for travelers like me. The news was
not encouraging. In their overview report of the city they said that
Shenzhen is a city most side-stepped by travelers. Because of the huge
disparity between the wealthy and the poor it is even dangerous,
especially at night. WONDERFUL!!!

Reading that made me so glad I came here.

Surely there has to be something to see and do here. Let's see what
Lonely Planet lists under 'Attractions'. There's not much. Beyond food
and bars, there's Artist's row, Huang Bei Ling, a smallish village,
and... they recommended a day trip into Hong Kong.

So why did I come here?

Climate first and foremost. It is warm here, in South China. Ease of
train ticket purchase was the next reason. If I could not get a ticket
here I would have gone to Kunming, another city in the south. Finally,
many of my former students who have now graduated have come here to
make their fortune. I wanted to see what it was all about so that I
could tell them I visited their city the next time we talked.

Didn't I think to research it before coming here? Well, I would have
if I had had time. I didn't. I figured: why not? It is a warm climate;
let's just go with that and the spirit of adventure.

Now a mite discouraged by the Lonely Planet disclosure I decided the
safest, and possibly most fun thing I could do is ride buses. I can
spend 3 days doing that; there are plenty of buses to ride.

What about getting back to Wuhan? Or, maybe going somewhere else?

OK, first course of action: to the train station to see if they have
any tickets. Either back to Wuhan or to another destination. Off I go.

I was encouraged by the people walking out of the train station with
tickets in their hand. The previous morning, when I tried to buy my
ticket there were no tickets being sold and the scrolling marquee only
advertised local tickets. Now the marquee is full of choices and
people are buying tickets. All of the ticketing windows were populated
and all of the lines are full of eager hopefuls. I am encouraged. But,
come time for me to ask about tickets the agent informed me there
won't be any tickets back to Wuhan till after the 25th, and then, only
for 'soft sleepers', the pricey luxury berths. At over 500Yuan apiece
that was both more than I wanted to spend and more than the 300Yuan I
had on me.

Here it is, only the 18th! I did not relish the idea of staying here
for over a week, in a city that has little to do and is dangerous at
night. Quickly I shifted gears and asked the ticketing agent if there
were any tickets available to...

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