We returned to Xiamen by way of Amsterdam (only a 5 hours layover this time), Hong Kong and Shenzhen.We took a ferry boat directly from Hong Kong International Airport to Shenzhen Shekou Port thereby bypassing passport control and customs just as we had done on the way to Macau last year.This is a highly recommended route,especially if you have a ton of suitcases,since the port workers take your luggage out of the airplane in HK and load it directly onto the ferry boat,so you don’t need to worry about carrying it until you exit the port in Shenzhen. This is great and extremely convenient. I think it may even be quicker than taking the subway downtown to Shenzhen (depending of course on which part of the city you want to end up in).
We had visited Shenzhen before and had enjoyed it a lot.I don’t know why everyone seems to think that Hong Kong is so cool.I mean,I know it has glitzy shopping malls and restaurants,but it is so damned expensive and you have to pay over $100 for a decent room there which is usually a tiny box whereas for only 300 RMB you can get a fabulous large suite and there is plenty of great shopping and restaurants to be had on the Chinese side of the border.Maybe we have been unlucky with the weather every time we have been in HK but in short,it doesn’t grab me.I am not a shopping person, anyway.
Shenzhen,the Chinese city over the border from Hong Kong,is connected by subway to the Hong Kong subway.If you arrive by land you go through passport control and customs and just follow the signs to reach China (assuming you have a Chinese visa of course).Shenzhen is a massive city populated by mostly migrants from other parts of China.Today it is pretty well-to-do with huge theme parks, shopping malls,green parks and a fantastic cheap subway which is squeaky clean and all conveniently labelled in English.All announcements are made in Chinese,Cantonese and English too. Last time we visited Splendid China,a sort of theme park encapsulating all the major sites of China.It is next to Window of the World,which is the same for many major world sites.So this time we forgo a visit to Minsk World or OCT East resort, all of which are massive theme parks, and headed for Dafen Artists Village.
This is an area which has a large quantity of art galleries selling any kind of artwork from copies of Van Goghs to traditional Chinese artworks.You can take along a picture and have it copied,or you can get stuff you already bought framed fairly cheaply.It was a bit more subdued and quiet than I was expecting maybe because people were still away for their annual Spring Festival Holiday,but there was the Shenzhen art Gallery in the middle and that had a free exhibition which was very enjoyable.
In the evening we went to Sea World Plaza,a big square which houses many restaurants both Chinese and International, a large ship that has been made into a floating restaurant The whole area was illuminated for Valentines’ Day complete with kitschy musical fountains and laser show.
The next day we visited another part of the city known as the OCT which stands for “Overseas Chinese Town”.Basically this is a part of the town where wealthy Chinese who have made their fortune overseas in various businesses,return to live and/or invest money.WE had come across this term in Xiamen as the part of the city where all the universities are located is also based on income from “Overseas Chinese” It is a way of putting back into the community.In Shenzhen there is a very trendy area called OCT Loft which houses sort of avant garde yuppy galleries and eateries and also has a space for live music performances.Unfortunately we didn’t manage to go to any performances but we did see some amazing art exhibitions,and strolled around the area a bit before making our way to the train station to catch the high-speed train back to Xiamen.The high speed train on this route only began running in December but it is definitely going to be useful as it cuts the train journey down from 9 or so hours to less than 4. I also find it preferable to going by plane,not just because of the price but also because it is more comfortable and saves doing all the airline check -in and security stuff.
So now we are back in Xiamen at the start of a new semester.We have some new students and some from last semester,and life is good.It was really cold when we arrived here but now the sun is shining and the sky is blue,and we are planning where to go for our May 1 holiday and what we will do at the end of this semester.Who knows? I certainly don’t!