A recent business trip to Shenzhen was my first visit to China. I benefited greatly from traveling with a Chinese-national colleague who is a permanent US resident. He helped pull back the curtain that I think would have typically been present for a Western traveler. He was tour guide and translator, and I am grateful to him for this great trip. The hospitality of the numerous hosts throughout the trip was remarkable. Nearly every shared meal was an event lasting hours. All gatherings were marked by amazing food, good drink and lively conversation, sometimes peppered with English-Chinese translations.
After spending three days working in Shenzhen, we spent the rest of the week in the Sichuan province visiting friends and family of my colleague. This blog, China Trip Part 1, covers my stay in Shenzhen. The next blog, China Trip Part 2, will cover my time in the Sichuan Province.
After a direct flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, we made our way overland to Shenzhen. We considered going by either bus or ferry. We opted for the bus because it seemed easier as we made our way out of the airport. In hindsight, I think the ferry would have been the smoother way to go. Customs for Hong Kong and the mainland were separate and required re-boarding the bus twice, one time carrying all our luggage, which was inconvenient especially after the long fight and resulting frayed nerves.
We stayed in the western part of the city at the Shenzhen Jinhui Hotel on the 17th floor. The cityscape views below are from my hotel room, but the pictured high-rise cluster is not the city center. The room had a westward view, and the city center was to the east. Shenzhen is a city of 12 million in the Guangdong province. As a major manufacturing center in China, one or more of your electronic gadgets probably originated here. Shenzhen, like much of China, is undergoing tremendous economic growth, averaging about 15% GDP growth for the last several years. The construction tower cranes visible from the hotel room were the first of countless cranes that became a dominant theme of the Chinese urban landscape.
The nighttime Shenzhen skyline features a unique bright green laser that periodically sweeps the sky. A local laser manufacturing company, Han's Laser, fires the laser over the city each evening. The display as seen from the hotel window was impressive, although the photo does not do it justice.
A demanding work schedule left little free time in Shenzhen, but I managed a brief walk around the hotel neighborhood a couple of mornings. As a San Franciscan, this pedestrian-bridge version of the Golden Gate Bridge caught my eye. The aspect ratio is too squat, but the color and the horizontal cross beams above and the diagonal cross beams below the deck are signatures of the San Francisco landmark. This miniature version holds some of the colorful charm of the original.
The sky was overcast for one of the morning walks, but it didn't look threatening, so I left the umbrella behind. Ten minutes from the hotel a light rain started to fall, and the nearby pedestrians began to seek cover. I took note and did the same. Some nearby palms seemed good shelter. A few meters away a girl and young boy sheltered under the partially intact roof of a subway stairwell. As the rain got heavier, I moved to the railing opposite the kids under the stairwell roof. The kids had the dryer side, and the increasingly heavier rain was getting my side of the stairwell wetter. The girl motioned to a section of railing next to them that was dryer than mine, and I happily accepted her offer. When the rain got heavier, even the dryer side of the stairwell was getting wet, and we moved down the stairwell into the subway entrance. When the rain slackened slightly, my concern for my schedule took priority. Before making a run for the hotel, I asked the girl for a picture. She seemed happy to have her picture taken, but the younger boy wanted no part despite her encouragement.
The next blog will be Part 2 of this China Trip and describe the visit to the Sichuan Province in central China. Stay tuned!