Sunday, September 24, 2006

#47 Shenzhen

September 23, 2006
It’s muggy in the tropics. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The typhoon kept us from docking as planned in Qingdao in northern China, but it is possible to reach the China border from the south – just 45 minutes by train from Hong Kong. So, today we set off to find the real China.
1502 Shenzhen border
Our destination is Shenzhen. We set out with a couple shipmates (Tom and Dianne) at 0900 and we arrive about 2 hours later in the People’s Republic of China. Passing through Hong Kong immigration, China immigration and China customs proves to be time consuming and gives us pause. Everyone is scanned with infrared cameras to isolate those with elevated body temperatures. A strip of eerily undeveloped land isolated by razor wire and dotted with elevated guard towers flying the Chinese flag separates Hong Kong from China. Even though Hong Kong is now officially part of China, the border crossing is significant.

With a Shenzhen map in hand, we walk toward Dong Men Walking Street – a shopping district about a mile from the train station. Many shops sell t-shirts sporting slogans printed in English with a translational twist. One of our favorites:
“Enjoy the present condition and do an enjoyable life.”
Along the way, we meet Cherry, a young local who offers her assistance. She helps us navigate our not-so-direct route and suggests a place for lunch. When we invite her to join us, she accepts and helps us navigate our not-so-direct route through the menu. We are the only English speakers in the restaurant. Cherry doesn’t accept any payment for her help other than the cost of lunch and she hurries back to work.
1501 Tom Cherry Mary Diane
Shenzhen is not Hong Kong. The culture, history and spirit of Hong Kong are missing here. It is a tumultuous area with a crime problem, numerous beggars, aggressive hawkers, and a struggling infrastructure. Many Hong Kong residents travel to Shenzhen for shopping since the prices are significantly lower. We came home with a tiny bit of an idea of what life might be like in mainland China.

Yours in trying to imagine,

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