We lived for about 3 months in Beijing in 2008 and from there we traveled to Shenzhen, which is right next to Hong Kong, on the mainland territory of China. It was mid autumn and already getting cooler in the capital, but Shenzhen was still extremely hot and humid (although, the locals assured us that the weather has been rather mild already).
Our first impression of Shenzhen came from seeing very densely built apartment blocks on the outskirts of the city from our plane window, as we were descending to Shenzhen airport. We thought, it was an optical illusion, something to do with looking at the buildings from above – these high rise buildings could not possibly built so close to each other! However, our interpreter cleared up the situation – they were indeed built ridiculously close. Such areas, known as urban villages, are known for the ‘hand-shake architecture’, meaning that you could actually shake hands with your neighbour from the opposite house just by leaning out of a window. Some of these multi storied buildings would be built with just about a meter gap between them.
Shenzhen, in its modern version, is a very new city. It was just a fishing village until Chinese government decided to heavily invest into this area and make it the largest manufacturing and economic hub in China. Starting from the end of the 70s, the city saw an enormous influx of job seekers from all over the country. Right now its population is about 15 million people. The sea on one side and the hills on another, mean that the city spreads in a line and the buildings need to be packed together, to allow enough housing for so many inhabitants.
While the urban villages are crammed in the outskirts, the city centre is all about fancy glass sky scrapers, wide avenues and large green parks. We had some free time (this was actually a business trip), so we went to the Window of the World park, which showcases landmarks from different countries, from the Eiffel Tower to Taj Mahal. Its territory is a luscious tropical garden, which provides a much desired shade in the heat.
I think, Shenzhen is definitely one of the cities I could’ve lived in (although, their local cuisine is far too hot for me). It’s modern, it’s international and it’s got lots to offer.
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