Lying just north of Hong Kong is one of the most rapidly expanding cities in China, Shenzhen. Whilst it may look industrial to any outsider, the city has some hidden corners that are worth visiting. With the city being only a stone’s throw from Hong Kong, let’s see what it can offer to any intrepid tourist.
Shenzhen Book City
Whilst not exactly being off the beaten track and being rammed with tourists as well as locals at any given time, Shenzhen has the largest bookstore in China. Book City stocks well over three million books and it is also home to a number of writer’s groups. Perfect for whiling away an afternoon away from the bustle of the city, the book stacks may be just what you need.
Window of the World
Again, this is another tourist attraction that draws crowds from all over but it has been included on this list simply for it’s weird factor. Window of the World is a park entirely dedicated to the replica of famous sights. Next door, you can also find ‘Splendid China Folk Cultures Village’ which is dedicated to Chinese folklore and traditions. Not quite as famous as it’s neighbour, it is worth a visit merely to see how much of the slightly more controversial customs have been whitewashed.
Chiwan Old Fort
You would be forgiven for thinking that Shenzhen does not have a lot of history, considering it is less than a century old but you would be wrong. Notoriously difficult to find but a curious insight into Shenzhen’s roots, the old fort was built to protect the Pearl River from the British by the Qing dynasty at the time. You can still see the cannon, as well as several interesting artefacts related to the Opium Wars.
This really is a two for one, as the location of this ethnic minority village is also home to one of the best beaches in Shenzhen. Hakka is a minority within China, with its own customs and dialect, and Na’Nao village is a perfect place to not only get to know the culture better but to escape the city. This area is largely undeveloped, and the beach here is quite quaint. There is also an excellent seafood market where you can buy some snacks for the day. If you are staying in Shenzhen for longer than a weekend, make Na’Nao a must see.
For something a little out of left field, visit the exhibition inside OCT Loft dedicated to He Xiangnang. She was one of the original founders of the Kuomintang and participated greatly in the founding of modern Chinese politics. The gallery contains many of her works, albeit with an obvious political tint. To see how propaganda blends effortlessly with art, it is worth a visit.
In Futian district, there is a part of the city that has long been overlooked. Shuiwei is one of the most vibrant areas of Singapore. The place itself is a former village and so the lanes are narrow, which means it takes on an entirely different air from that of Shenzhen. There are plenty of excellent Cantonese restaurants, all of which are extremely popular with local Hong Kong businessmen who after crossing the border into Shenzhen, will often stop off here to eat before heading home. There is also a particularly vibrant street market, which is open until late and where you can buy food, electronics, designer knock-offs and DVDs.