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Old May 8th, 2011, 12:55 AM   #1
Pansori
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Shenzhen 2011. China's superstar boomtown

So I did it. Finally
After years of "next time" I finally took a decisive action and paid a visit to China. To be precise, Guangdong province which included Shenzhen and Guangzhou in addition to my final destination in China Macau.

My time in Shenzhen was very limited (only two nights) which means I did not manage to physically visit the city but merely some bits and pieces here and there. It was enough to get some idea what Shenzhen is all about. And, boy, it is one hell of a city: huuuuuge, modern, clean and orderly. It looks and feels like a true paradise for an urban planner with wide tree-lined avenues, lots of tall and massive buildings, good public transport, lovely parks and retreat areas and the small architecture to complete the entire picture. Perhaps a bit like Simcity in real life.

I have heard some negative talks of Shenzhen in the past: that it's dangerous, dirty (wtf?), polluted and unpleasant. I never believed it anyway but now I would just laugh at anyone saying anything of the sort. Shenzhen is a fascinating, beautiful, lovely, very clean and simply an incredible city which is in a league of its own when it comes to modernity and dynamism. A true superstar of China and a showcase of the explosive development which has been taking place there for the past 30 years with Shenzhen in the front.


Some basic facts about Shenzhen:

- population: 9+ million
- area: 2000 sq.km
- established: 1980 (yes, it's merely 30 years old!)
- bordering Hong Kong to the South and very close to another Chinese magapolis Guangzhou to the North-West

One absolutely incredible fact about Shenzhen is that this city has been built virtually from scratch in just 30 years. I mean a 10 million city in 30 years... this is something. It was established as a free economic zone in 1980 and has grown to a massive metropolis by now which is bigger than London...

Location Map


Close-up map. As you see it's pretty much squeezed in between Hong Kong and Guangzhou



Anyway, here are the photos. I know I did not see everything I wanted due to limited time but I guess this is a reasonably good preview of what to expect there. And I am more than confident it is not my last time there...

It took ages to wait at the passport control after which I took a taxi from the airport. The ride was amazing: a fresh new motorway, all modern and neat around it, massive residential blocks around. We surely came to a big city. However, despite showing the driver a map with Chinese writing he managed to get lost (he knew location just approximately). It was very strange because Shenzhen is extremely easy to navigate and all it took were two right turns to get to my destination... anyway I started showing the driver where to go with hand gestures and after about 10 minutes of messing around we got to the place which was Enping street in OCT-LOFT area. All I knew about it was that my hostel was meant to be there and picture of the map location...

1. Here is the first view nearby. It was almost midnight. Some large apartment blocks around


2. Shennan Avenue nearby. This is one of the main avenues of Shenzhen going for over 20km East to West.


3. Did not quite expect something like that. The whole area was simply overwhelmed by trees, bushes and other greenery. It felt almost like walking in a tunnel of green. Of course, everything was taken good care of with lovely pedestrian paths, decorative lighting and a very peaceful and I would say romantic atmosphere all around. It seemed like an exceptionally nice area. I was to find out more the day after. One thing I noticed was the feeling of total safety. I saw lone women walking in the dark and playing around with their iPhones, or couples just having romantic time under a tree and having a drink or a snack. Mind you it was midnight and just an occasional person on the street. Usually it would not be considered a good time to go for a walk on your own, especially if you are a woman and show around your iPhone, camera or other expensive gadget. I was later to find out that any worries of personal safety were wrong. I spoke to an Irish expat living in Shenzhen and he ensured me that if there is one thing to enjoy then it's being sure that physical attacks of any kind are extremely unlikely if not impossible in Shenzhen or any other major Chinese city. Seemingly there is no much violent crime there apart from such nuisances as pickpockets. Good. That's what I like, feeling safe.


4. Nearby the hostel I stayed (it's called LOFT Youth Hostel, located in OCT area and I would highly recommend it to any budget traveller going to SZ, it's a very modern, cool and open place). What I immediately noticed was the attention to taking care of public spaces in the city. This was not only the case in this area but everywhere I went.


5. OCT is not a typical place. It's a former industrial area rebuilt into loft houses and largely modelled by Vancouver's loft zone. Whoever got such an idea deserves a praise because this must be one of the most pleasant, peaceful and romantic urban areas I have ever seen anywhere. Gotta love that post-industrial and artistic loft atmosphere filled with plenty of greenery all around. I must admit I did not expect something as cool as this in Shenzhen but I guess China these days is the place where even the insanely high expectations are exceeded as was the case with me in almost every step I went. In the picture you see a police patrol with an electric car


6. Street art in OCT


7.


8. Bicycle path. Seemingly the city authorities pay lots of attention to the needs of cyclists. Quite a few bicycles everywhere and it seems to be the younger generation as well and not just those who cannot afford a more comfortable transport as was the case in the past

Last edited by Pansori; May 8th, 2011 at 01:09 AM.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 01:08 AM   #2
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Looks surprisingly good so far. Looking forward to other pictures!
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Old May 8th, 2011, 01:18 AM   #3
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9. Facades of former factories. Today they house anything from restaurants and art galleries to apartments and hotels.


10.


11. Info boards


12.


13.


I have Googled a little article about OCT

OCT-LOFT the city’s new community art park
http://www.shenzhen-standard.com/201...nity-art-park/

Quote:
With a total investment of 30 million yuan and two years of renovation, the city new community art park OCT-LOFT was inaugurated at the Overseas Chinese Town in the Nanshan District.
The first phase of the park was created from renovated factory buildings in the eastern part of the OCT which covers a total area of 55,000 square meters with another 95,000 square meters reserved for further development. 20 companies and organizations composing of designers, architects and artists have joined the community. Over the last decade major cities opened up to the idea of loft living, bring the way of life to deserted parts of the city. With tenants like artists and architects who chose to live in rooms with high ceilings, large windows and open floor areas.
In 2004 the OCT Real Estates Co. planned to transform abandoned area into modern art and cultural center. The block of abandoned industrial building would have been torn down for real estate development but they decided to transform the district to mimic New York’s Soho district.
OCT Real Estates Co. decided to renovate the industrial area by copying Vancouver’s loft zone. The company sent a team of experts to visit Vancouver to get ideas. A true loft is a conversion of a vintage factory or warehouse, anyone can do or design the place according to their liking.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 01:21 AM   #4
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14.


15.


16.
The nearby Qiaocheng East Road


17.
Qiaocheng East Road. Lots of greenery, wide pedestrian sidewalks


18. Junction with Shennan Avenue


18. Apartment buildings next to Shennan Avenue
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Old May 8th, 2011, 10:51 AM   #5
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Did Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong three years ago. Three fantastic cities. Three completely different neighboring megacities. Maybe the most awesome city destinations in the world. I liked Shenzhen, a perfectly planned city, huge but very relaxing compared to Hong Kong's extreme density, completely crowded and tiny streets. Yet Hong Kong was naturally my favorite of the three cities. I also loved taking the subway in Shenzhen, brand new and few people (compared to Hong Kong at least) used it (that was three years ago).

Looking forward seeing more photos!
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Old May 8th, 2011, 12:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Þróndeimr View Post
Did Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong three years ago. Three fantastic cities. Three completely different neighboring megacities. Maybe the most awesome city destinations in the world. I liked Shenzhen, a perfectly planned city, huge but very relaxing compared to Hong Kong's extreme density, completely crowded and tiny streets. Yet Hong Kong was naturally my favorite of the three cities. I also loved taking the subway in Shenzhen, brand new and few people (compared to Hong Kong at least) used it (that was three years ago).

Looking forward seeing more photos!
Interesting... actually the metro trains were quite full at any time I used them (although I used only line 1). Not that it was crowded (and the stations were certainly not crowded) but I never had a chance to sit. And I must completely agree about planning. It feels like modelled after Simcity game. Love all those open spaces and accessibility. That's my idea of a well-planned city.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 12:48 PM   #7
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i only used the Green line (not sure if its line 1?) and it was easy to find a place to sit, even during morning rush so to speak. I guess, since the subway in Shenzhen is so new it takes a few years to get popular, thats why it was less people using it 3.5 years ago.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 01:31 PM   #8
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Yeah, it was the green line also known as Luobao line. It is opening a new extension to the airport next month so I guess it will be even more busy from now on.

Last edited by Pansori; May 8th, 2011 at 01:37 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 03:25 PM   #9
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19. View from Shennen Avenue overpass to Qiaocheng East Rd. in Nan Shan district. Typical view of Shenzhen: wide avenue (note it is not even one of the "main" avenues), wide pedestrian sidewalks, clean, well ordered and simple with plenty of trees and other greenery around. Everything just looks in order and has that general feeling of neatness and tidiness


20.


21. Shennan Avenue


22.


23.


24. Qiaocheng East metro entrance is alsmost hidden in the bushes. There is a bus stop nearby. Now we'll be heading East to see some other parts of Shenzhen
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Old May 8th, 2011, 03:36 PM   #10
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25. Ticket machines in the metro. Fares are at 2-7RMB (typically 3-4 RMB which would be around 0.5 EUR). The machines accept coins and notes. The ticket comes in a form of RFID token or a multi-use RFID card which have to be touched to a ticket reader at every ticket gate.


26. Metro. Very clean, tidy, modern and new.


27. Metro station area above the platforms. Lots of space. Looks and feels a bit like Hong Kong metro. Not surprising because Hong Kong is just a few km away.


28. A few kilometers away from the OCT in Futian



29. The high-rise area in Futian looks largely complete but it's still very much a work in progress: smell of concrete, paint and other construction materials are in the air. In fact it's not that much different in most of Shenzhen. It's a city that must have been addicted to building new stuff and in large quantities. That's what we like


30.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 03:41 PM   #11
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More views in Futian

31.


32. Love how the pedestrian and all other public spaces are taken care of


32.1


33. Futian Sheraton


34.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 05:14 PM   #12
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It looks like a fascinating place, but I have to be honest.. these big Chinese cities don't seem to have much "soul". They don't seem very cosy.

That said, I haven't been to China yet (will be going there for the first time in August).
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Old May 8th, 2011, 05:56 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by City of Rain View Post
It looks like a fascinating place, but I have to be honest.. these big Chinese cities don't seem to have much "soul". They don't seem very cosy.

That said, I haven't been to China yet (will be going there for the first time in August).
I guess it depends on perception. I found the area I stayed in Shenzhen (OCT-LOFT) to be one of the cosiest and most sophisticated urban areas I have ever been to in any country or city. Same with Guanzghou. Of course, it's all new or recently refurbished but it's done tastefully and in style without trying to save every penny as is often the case in Europe. Overall I found Shenzhen and Guangzhou to be much cosier than, say, London or even Paris where it's hard to find a place to chill-out and relax in the city. I think the public spaces such as parks, pedestrian sidewalks etc. in Chinese cities are the best I have seen in any country (perhaps with an exception of Singapore). They did a very, and I mean VERY good job creating friendly and nice urban environments there.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 06:31 PM   #14
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35. Continuing in Futian


36.


37. Fuhua Road, one of the main avenues of Futian CBD


38.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 06:32 PM   #15
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It sure looks like a well organized city, but not very urban (except the center).. Think Hong Kong is more like my cup of tea. Nice pictures non the less.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 06:34 PM   #16
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Streets in Futian. Things look very good indeed. Everything is clean, neat, tidy and in good shape.

39.


40.


41.


42.


43.


44.


45.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 06:40 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjoks007 View Post
It sure looks like a well organized city, but not very urban (except the center).. Think Hong Kong is more like my cup of tea. Nice pictures non the less.
True, it is certainly less dense than HK. To be honest I don't like over-urbanized places and I always enjoy some space between buildings and on the street level for pedestrians. Shenzhen is perfect for that. Also it is still very much work in progress. For instance right now they are building this... a new district the size of Manhattan for 1.5 million people about 15km away from Futian and even more far away from Luohu skyscrapers


It's the monumental scale and number of projects that are taking place there. I don't know if there are cities outside China that would even come close to what is happening in terms of development in Shenzhen at the moment.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 07:58 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pansori View Post
True, it is certainly less dense than HK. To be honest I don't like over-urbanized places and I always enjoy some space between buildings and on the street level for pedestrians. Shenzhen is perfect for that.
Totally agree with you.
Somebody who has visited HK 3 times and will visit this year too i certainly like the place, but the life of pedestrians where the walkway just stops isn't that fun and as a whole i would like to see the coast and sea to be used more. Though HK+peak saves it for me.
I personally love urban city next to the sea and lots and lots of wide walkways. I adore Sydney and one big part of that love are the walkways that go next to the coast everywhere, open rock carved swimming pools next to the coast and the relaxed feeling that imo HK to me has totally lacked.

I don't know if i will be visiting Shenzhen any time soon, but looking at those pictures i'm liking what i'm seeing. Just hopefully they don't fall to that kind grand hastly drawn city with big empty concrete spaces. Maybe it would be wrong to expect Shenzhens grow to be organic, but at least give a feel of that.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 08:15 PM   #19
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Good stuff. Makes you wonder how they have such fantastic cities with such low GDP. I guess its just the rural population that needs to be absorbed. Hopefully they manage to do that soon!
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Last edited by bleetz; May 8th, 2011 at 08:21 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2011, 09:18 PM   #20
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I don't know - it just looks a little too plain. It can't compare to the many small streets of Paris and London.

It's sort of like an apartment without any decorations and completely plain walls - not very cosy, imo.
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