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jetskreemr Nov 7th, 2007 01:44 PM

Any Shenzhen Advice?
I'll be traveling to China in January for 2 weeks with my husband for business. We will be spending 4 days in Shenzhen, staying at the Intercontinental. This is the only part of our trip that I can't figure out what to do during the day while he is working (although one day he only has a morning meeting and that is it.) My quick research has shown there is not a lot of sightseeing to do here (other than a few theme parks, in which I am not interested.)

Can anyone recommend what I could do while here?

- Considering the rest of the trip is in major cities (Beijing/Shanghai/Hong Kong), could I hire a driver and visit a natural area/archeological site/etc somewhere out of town, or is there nothing like that nearby? (I would love to be able to find some beautiful natural scenery but realize I may be too city-bound to do that.)

- Could I take a train into/near Hong Kong, or will it take too long to get into and out of? (Our next stop on the trip is to Hong Kong anyway, so I may not need to do this unless there are good things to see in the suburbs.)

- Are there good places to shop in town? And are there good places to get a message? These are things I would do if I cannot find any other things I prefer. I would also normally be fine hanging out at the outdoor hotel pool, but it looks as though the weather will be cool during that time of year, so that may be out.

Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

rkkwan Nov 7th, 2007 02:34 PM

The whole city of Shenzhen was built up during the last 25 years. There was basically nothing before that. So you won't find any historical site. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to see.

Right next to the Intercon is the Window of the World theme park. I won't suggest going there on purpose, but since it's right next door, you might as well go take a look.

Over in the east side of Shenzhen (about 25 miles, past the Yantian port) are some fairly nice beaches in a more rural setting.

Or do a daytrip to Guangzhou. Very frequent highspeed trains from the Shenzhen station.

Yes, you can go to Hong Kong fairly easily. From the hotel you can take the Shenzhen subway either to Lowu or to the new Huanggang crossing; cross over to Hong Kong and take the KCR-East Rail suburban train to the city. Kind of time consuming, but you have to fill in forms, go through immigration on both sides, and have your passport full of chops. And I assume you do have a multiple entry visa.

Or you can go to the Shekou port (just a few miles from the Intercon) and take the very frequent ferry to Zhuhai. Then taxi or bus to the Macau border and go there for a day trip. [There's also a direct ferry from Shekou to Macau, but it's very infrequent.]

Cicerone Nov 7th, 2007 07:30 PM

Yeah, Shenzhen is not much unless you are into shoddy tailoring and fake Prada bags. (You might want to read Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler for the trip to get sort of a view of Shenzhen, or his excellent River Town as well.) I would first check to see in the Intercon has a good spa. Secondly, the beach idea suggestion is not bad, although in January our average temps are only in the high 60s to low 70s, so sitting out in a bathing suit is not really ideal. It would be more to go look at the beaches and some of the little villages.

Yes, you can go to Hong Kong for a day trip (assuming you have a multiple entry visa for the PRC, virtually all of them issued these days by the PRC are multiple entry, just check. You don't need a visa for Hong Kong assuming you are a US citizen.) I live in Hong Kong, and would actually suggest that as you are coming to the city later in the trip, that for any day trip from Shenzhen you avoid the city areas on Hong Kong Island, and go to mainland areas in the New Territories much closer to the border near Shenzhen, like the Fanling area, which has some great walks, and also has some of the remaining rural/village areas with ancient ancestral clan halls. There are some excellent hikes and walks in that area, in particular Bride's Pool (not hard) and various parts of the Wilson Trail (Section #10 in particular) and the McLehose Trail (varying easy to hard, a good map and description of the McLehose Trail can be found at and helpful hike descriptions at . January is a great month weather-wise for walking (cool and dry). There are some lovely beaches and walks in this area too, esp around Sai Kai and Clear Water Bay (Sai Kung has some good restaurants and interesting little shops and kind of a small town feel to it around the pier area).

You can take the KCR train to this area and then walk or take local buses from there. Take a look at for the route of the KCR train line (from Lo Wo or Lok Ma Chau at the border) in to the New Territories (on the main home page on the left, click on "railway and bus service, from the pull down menu, click on map, then enlarge the map. You want the KCR East Rail Service).

In Fanling, which is a stop on the KCR East Railway, you can do a historical walking tour of the walled villages and clan halls of Fanling, this is quite an interesting self-guided tour, take a look at for info and maps. It takes under 2 hours. The area before San Wai village in particular, toward the end of the walk, is in an area of rice paddies. If you want to see more traditional housing and clan halls, then you could go to one of either of the two "walled village" museums in the New Territories, either the Sam Tung Uk Museum in Tsuen Wan or the Sheung Yiu Folk Museum on the Pak Tam Chung Nature Trail, Sai Kung. Take a look at

In Shan Tin, also in the New Territories and a stop on the KCR line, is the ferry point for outlying ferries to lovely islands like Tap Mun (Grass Island) which on weekdays would be practically deserted and there is a nice little walk around the island. This would be an all-day trip as the ferry only runs once a day, but is quite pretty.

On the West side of Hong Kong there are the Mai Po Marshes, which are quite pretty and great if you are a birder. You can reach this by KCR (West Rail) and bus/taxi or a car and driver. You can take a tour of the Mai Po marshes with the World Wildlife Fund. Guided walks are only on weekends and public holidays, but you can also visit Mai Po yourself on other days and do you own walk. Take a look at

If you husband or his firm is paying, you can also have a car and driver take you into Hong Kong and take you around. That is the easiest way, IMO (if the least environmentally friendly, and wait until you see our smog...) With a car and driver, the trip even to Central Hong Kong will take less than an hour so all of Hong Kong is theoretically available to you; to Fanling would be like 20 minutes assuming no long lines at the border. A PRC driver however, may not know the Fanling area, so if you decide to see that area, I would ask that you get a driver out from one of the Intercons in Hong Kong to collect you. ( Either way it may be a little freaky because the PRC and Hong Kong drive on opposite sides of the road, so your driver may be sitting on the wrong side of the car for the road, but they are used to it when driving between the PRC and Hong Kong.) The driver could just take you to and from the Fanling KCR station and you could go by public transport or taxi from there.

You can also get to Hong Kong by going to Shenzhen Airport and taking the ferry. The ferry service goes to the Kowloon side and the Hong Kong side. But this is only if you want to go to downtown Hong Kong, which you may not want to. Also, if you want to go hiking on Lantau or to see the Big Buddha, you could take the ferry from Shenzhen to Hong Kong Airport, which is on Lantau.

Within the PRC, one other thing I can recco that you try to do is get down to Kaipíng which is a bit northwest of Shenzhen, to see the diaolóu (often called somewhat erroneously “watch towers”) there. These were built by returning overseas Chinese in the early part of the last century and are quite something. I have been trying to get there myself for a trip, as I have only seen pictures at an Asia Society dinner and they look fascinating. You can bike around the area and look at them, you can apparently only go in one or two if any, but very interesting indeed. I believe there is a bus service to the area from Shenzhen, of course if you want to hire and car and driver that would certainly be the easiest way. Some articles can be found at the website and at;; and . If you do this, please post a trip report!!!

If you do go to Guangzhou, or just want to read a very interesting book about China generally and the Guangdong area in particular, get God's Chinese Son: The Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, by Jonathan D. Spence. Hong Xiuquan, the man who started the Taping movement based on Christian principals, and eventually lead to the Taping Rebellion, was from the Kaiping area. Its very interesting and sobering as it is estimated that 30 million people died over the course of the Taiping Rebellion.

Cicerone Nov 7th, 2007 07:51 PM

Sorry, the ferry to Grass Island departs from Ma Liu Shui pier which is near the UNIVERSITY KCR station, not Sha Tin. For ferry times go to

rkkwan Nov 7th, 2007 08:16 PM

Couple of comments from Cicerone's post.

1. Kaiping should be interesting, but it's kind of far from Shenzhen. I expect 2.5 hours by road each way, perhaps more. Need to start early.

2. If you want to take a ferry to Hong Kong instead of the train, don't go to the Shenzhen airport. Instead, go to the Shekou port, which is only a few miles from the IC, and then take the much more frequent ferry to either Hong Kong or Kowloon:

Just keep in mind that on the schedule page:

Shekou = Shekou Port in Shenzhen
China Ferry Terminal = pier in Kowloon
Macau Ferry Terminal = pier on Hong Kong Island

Be very clear about that. They use semi-highspeed catamarans for this route. Should be fairly comfortable. But this is not the Turbojet service.

jetskreemr Nov 11th, 2007 10:04 AM

Thank you so much for the advice! I really appreciate it.

Sheygetz Nov 21st, 2007 04:40 PM

Would Kaipíng be something one could tackle from Macau in a day (if a longish one)? How would one go about that, I understand that these diaolóu are scattered over a larger area, I presume to large to just walk it.


rkkwan Nov 21st, 2007 05:05 PM

Go across the border to China, and there are two major bus depots two levels underneath the shopping arcade in front of you. One will be the long distance coach station with buses to Kaiping every 1/2 hour to an hour. Here's a timetable I found (in Chinese):

The 8:30a one says "Direct". Cost is 40yuan.

I don't know how reliable these info is, but there are definitely direct buses relatively frequently.

Once you get to Kaiping, check the timetable for return buses, then perhaps just hire a taxi for a few hours.

Cicerone Nov 21st, 2007 06:41 PM

For see the dialou, Frommers recco's hiring a taxi in Kaiping, I copied this from their site:

" Taxis in Kaiping are mostly Jettas or Santanas with a ¥5 (65¢) flagfall which includes 2km (1 1/4 miles), then a fare of ¥2 (25¢) per kilometer. From 11pm to 5am, flagfall is ¥6 (75¢). Rentals for trips out of town should not involve the meter, however. Bargain down from the first asking price of ¥70 ($8.75) per hour, especially if you plan to be out for a few hours. The first price for Tangkou, a 1-hour wait, and return is ¥80 ($10)."

You can find the whole info, including more info on buses, on the Frommers website under Ghanghzou, they list Kaiping as a side trip from Ghangzhou.

According to Frommers, buses from Macau take about 2.5 hours. You might also hire a car/taxi from Macau to drive you (this may be faseter) but he would most likely not know where to go once you got to the area. I ahve also read articles on renting bicycles to tour the area, I believe the NY Times had an article, you might search for that.

Sheygetz Nov 22nd, 2007 05:28 AM

Thanks a lot you two, I'll follow up on that.


flanneruk Nov 28th, 2007 05:01 AM

One thing I found gobsmacking a few months ago was the landscape around the border. Given the extraordinary population density in much of the territory between Hong Kong and Canton, it was amazing to see how deserted the hills the train snakes through looked.

As far as I could tell, it's practically impossible to walk it on the China side: at any rate (western) business contacts in Shenzhen looked simply dumbfounded when I asked about footpaths through the countryside. But, as Cicerone says, they're very accessible indeed from the HK side. And they're an extraordinary contrast to the crowded monotony of Shenzhen.

Allow about 15 mins for the border: trains down the line into HK are about every 5-10 mins.

I also found the area round the HK suburban stations themselves fascinating. Unlike the soul-less, new, pristine horror of Shenzhen, some of the HK sububs have the joyfully chaotic, getting on for elderly, shabbiness of parts of London or New York. Old geezers (of both sexes) gossipping in tiny parks, wonderful food markets, strange goings on in churches, temples and friendly societies, family groups that AREN'T cursed by the "one child" rule... You can almost touch the sense of real freedom.

rkkwan Nov 28th, 2007 06:13 AM

Commenting on flanneruk's observations:

Shenzhen is a crazy place. It doens't exist other than small villages 30 years ago. Therefore, the whole population consist of younger people looking for fortune and work, and sometimes their young kids. There's no old people who live there (figuratively). And while it's in Guangdong Province and sits between Guangzhou and Hong Kong - the two largest Cantonese-speaking metropolitans in the world - most of its population speaks only Putonghua.

And the most interesting thing about the border to me is that people may think that Hong Kong is more developed than China, but highrise buildings go up all the way to the Shenzhen River on the Chinese side, while on the Hong Kong side, the border area have no developments, and parts are wildlife reserves. So, when you go from China to Hong Kong through Lowu or Huanggang, you actually goes from highrise buildings to greenery.

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