I admit. I have been to Shenzhen before, three times. And I did not like it.
The first time I travelled to Shenzhen was in the summer of 1999, when I was passing through, from Chongqing to Hong Kong. I remember getting off the coach from the Airport, dragging my large suitcases with me, sweating, panting and out of breath. No ‘Bangbang’ men in sight (Chongqing was full of men with sticks who offered to carry your heavy luggage, ten floors up or down, for a tiny fee). Here in Shenzhen, as soon as I was disembarked from the coach, a man walked in front of me and dropped his wallet.
“Miss, you have lost your wallet,” he said and tried to hand over the wallet stuffed with money.
“It’s not mine,” I grunted a reply, and struggled on with my heavy load.
Seconds later, only a few steps further, another man dropped his wallet in front of me, and did exactly the same. This time, I just ignored him and pushed my suitcase harder, wishing to hurry out of the city as soon as humanly possible.
For those who do not have much understanding of China in the 1990s, that was a trick people pull. They get you to say that the wallet full of money is yours and then lull you to a corner and rob you. One way or another, you’re stuffed.
So my first impression of Shenzhen? You can say that it was not appealing.
My second visit was better, when I travelled from Hong Kong to Shenzhen with a friend. We visited one of SZ’s tourist sights, Beautiful China (锦绣中华), where different ethnic minorities from all over China danced and sang for the tourists dressed in their bright, multicoloured costumes in front of mock traditional villages.
The third visit was quick, exiting Mainland China via Shenzhen during the Chinese New Year 2013. No train ticket available from Guangzhou during the largest human migration “Chunyun”, so I had to travel via Shenzhen to cross the border. It was so crowded and manic that I fell on top of my suitcases as people shoved me aside on the escalators, and a woman shouting at me while I lay on the floor, hurt and bruised by the fall. No help in sight but how dangerous and frightening it was – it could easily be a much bigger pile up and I could have been crushed at the very bottom! I vowed there and then that I would never return, if I could help it!
Return I did, and I chose to.
On the 5th day of April 2015, I travelled to Shenzhen again, to see my “children” whom I met last year in Birmingham (A Study Tour of #Birmingham, #BCU and Beyond – 深圳大学学生伯明翰游记). They are postgraduate students at Shenzhen University. Of course, I had business to attend to as well, but that would be another story.
Coming out of the Arrivals in a very modern, stylish Shenzhen Airport, I was immediately greeted by four beautiful, smiling faces, those of Deyi, Jinwen, Qianhan and Yuanmin. Their cheerful shout of “laoshi”(Teacher) and “Zeng Mama” travelled from their heart to mine. I hugged each of them, like children I have not seen for too long! My heart was filled with love and gratitude.
On arriving at my hotel, Huanhuan, Huiran, Huiwen and Zhaohao came along. Proper reunion time began. After a quick shower, washing away a little dust gathered from my journey, I was happily led out of the hotel and on our way to a pre-booked Cantonese restaurant. The evening sun hung low on the sky, it’s fabulous rays reflected on the high rise shopping malls down the flyover. We paused to appreciate the views and pose for a group photo.
Our special room was located in the restaurant and I left the ordering to my capable and gracious hosts. Plates and bowls of cold and hot sides, seafood and deserts, each utterly delicious and welcoming to my palate, arrived one after another. It was a cool change from the super hot and spicy food I had been eating till then.
During the meal, we caught up with with the news. Jinwen got married and is pregnant. Qianhan, Yuanmin and Zhaohao are busy with their dissertation. I talked most of all though, as there were many questions from these curious students, who wanted to know everything, from universities I went to in the UK to life stories of people I met. It was a highly enjoyable and engaging meal, with lots to eat and even more to talk about.
The next two days flew by like a whirl wind. Please come back next week to read more about my life-affirming experience of this modern Chinese City, just across the border from Hong Kong.
To be continued