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We left Garda and Michelle shopping for silk scarves and silk nightwear in Hangzhou while Ann and I jumped on a China Eastern flight to Shenzhen. Shenzhen is in the south, in Guandong Province, very close to Hong Kong. If you are in Hong Kong, it’s an easy trip by ferry, train, bus or plane…
Shenzhen is in the south, in Guandong Province, very close to Hong Kong. If you are in Hong Kong, it’s an easy trip by ferry, train, bus or plane to Shenzhen direct from the airport, and for anyone even a tiny bit interested in electronics it is the place to be in the world.
Like the “Commodity City” of Yiwu, Shenzhen is one of the great “Economic Zones” and in less than a decade has virtually become the electronics capital of the world. The sheer size of the shopping centers is dramatic to say the least.
Ann booked us in to the Motel 268, a budget Chinese chain. This small renovated hotel, tucked away in the corner of a shopping block literally overlooks the vast electronics markets. And that is exactly where we wanted to be. When Ann asked for the cash to pay, a frisson of trepidation fluttered through me. RMB 1620. A mere $230! On the way up to the 15th floor, we passed the 13th floor, and arrived on the 15th without passing a 14th. That’s the unlucky number in China. One more surprise, the RMB 1630 covered the cost of a third room for Michelle and her husband, who would be joining us after their shopping trip in Hangzhou.
Except for the circular bed in the middle of the large room, and the mirrored ceiling the room was remarkably nice. Big TV, lots of channels, some of them even in English, nice toilet and shower. Pretty good.
We soon found that these Chinese budget hotels do have some differences when compared to the European ones. No coffee sachets supplied, only tea. Large bowls of instant noodles, soap, toothbrushes, complimentary slippers, check, check. Condoms. What? Hmm. The room was rather nice.
Signing in would have been a slight problem for non-Chinese speakers, but one thing about this part of China is that there is always someone booking in or out who can and will offer to help you.
The view from the window was nothing short of spectacular. It was late, so I decided to have a couple of hours sleep before taking Ann out for dinner.
Now, back to the “complimentary requisites.” Yes, soap, towels, tea, tubs of noodles of varying flavors, toothbrushes, biscuits and a jug for hot water. Next to these in the side rack, (as with most Chinese hotels) sachets of vaginal cream for women, several varied styles of condoms, according to your taste I suppose, a small plastic vibrator, some “special herbs for men” and a leaflet, which Ann translated for me later as a Guide to safe sex.
The Chinese government take family planning rather seriously.
A few years earlier on our second visit to China to attend the Global Sources trade fair, whenever I got ‘lost’ (ie disappeared through boredom while shopping for jewelery) I could always be found in some dingy little group of shops surrounded by young Chinese boys and girls giving instructions on building (or rebuilding a Pentium 486 or rejigging an Apple 2E. These youths, just over a decade or so ago just wanted to learn, and they had the equivalent of stone age axes to work with. No one spoke any English, I spoke no Chinese, and yet when that moment came to boot up a stegosaurus of a machine, and it worked, cheers and whoops would resonate through the entire building. My hand would be shaken into a crippled lump of arthritis, and bottles of Tsing Tao were snagged open and passed around in celebration.
After a while the girls stopped worrying about where I was to be found. Just ask for the long haired ‘round eye’ and someone would point to a gaggle of guys and girls attentively writing notes and poking fingers into spinning fans.
Back to Shenzen a few years later, and a visit to the Hasee factory. Hasee and Lenovo laptops are among the best for the price in the world. In fact Lenovo are now the biggest laptop makers in the world and since their deal with IBM have become well known in the west.
In a single decade Shenzhen has become the place to buy wireless cameras the size of a button, Virtual reality glasses that really do turn your pda into a 72” Sensurround sound , while doubling as high end polarized sunglasses.
Ballpoint pens with voice recorder, camera, fm radio, and 64 gig of storage.
Hasee now has a laptop that (I actually did it) you can drop from the top of a ladder onto a tiled floor and it won’t even dent, and will still boot up and work perfectly.
Of course it’s easy to join the “shanzhai” bunch. Shanzhai, (sounds a little like Banzai) is not that much different, the word suggests rebelliousness or banditry and it’s shameless. Want to buy a knock off mobile phone that looks, acts, and feels like a Nokia. It’s actually a Nokia-offier. And totally shameless! $20 will buy you one of these with camera and all the fixings. Ipod? Same thing but call it an H-Pod.
And style and pizzazz is the name of the game for the shanzai dealers. They even tell you it’s a knock off, “but just as good”.
If you’re planning a visit to Hong Kong any time in the near future, (or later) you just HAVE to go to Shenzhen. It won’t cost you more than $20 by ferry, cheaper by bus, and you can fly for the cost of a new mobile phone !.
In the fifteen years we have been traveling in China a lot has changed. Cities have been built, the young are now ‘middle class’, and it seems like there are more 7 Elevens, Pizza Huts, McDonalds and Starbucks in Shenzhen alone than in the entire United States! (Well, maybe an exaggeration but who knows?)