Shenzhen: A Window to the Mainland

One thing I got very good at during my three-day stay in Shenzhen is my skills in playing charades. And no I am not kidding. 99% of the people I came across during my visit exclusively speaks the native languages, Mandarin and Cantonese, and the other 1% converse in basic, broken English. So I relied on my charade skills to communicate. Admirably, the people I bumped into are cordial and helpful. Don’t let the language barrier discourage you from visiting though, as Shenzhen is truly an amazing destination to get introduced to the life, food and culture of mainland China.

Shenzhen is a modern metropolis and is one of the major cities in Guandong Province of China. Situated just north of Hong Kong, it’s conveniently the entry point of many tourists to the mainland. I had been to Shenzhen twice before for a day-trip and visited Lohou/ LoWu Shopping Center to buy anime figures since it’s way much cheaper than the hobby shops in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and of course had to drop by each visit to ‘WOW’ or ‘Windows of the World’ to get a teaser of the great wonders of the world in miniature sizes, that get me oh so giddy to see the real ones.

If I have to describe how it is in Shenzhen, it seems to look like an extension of Hong Kong’s New Territories as the scenes are much alike. But not to get mixed up, Hong Kong and Shenzhen are different. For one, Filipinos need to get a Chinese visa to enter Shenzhen, while can enter Hong Kong visa-free.

A spring visit for three days, Shenzhen did surprise me . I did not expect it to be a city that’s lively & flashy, yet calming & relaxing at the same time. Here’s what I have covered during a quick three full day itinerary.

1. Ping An Finance Center
Ping An International Finance Centre stands 555.1 meters and is currently the world’s 4th tallest skyscraper. Tourists can buy a ticket to go up the observatory at the 116th floor at Sky Free for RMB200 (price as of May 2018 and may change without prior notice).

How to get to Ping An Finance Centre by train: Take Subway Line 1 (Luobao Line) and alight at Shopping Park and take exit C or D. Fare is about RMB 2 to 7.
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2. Nanshan Park
Game for a hike up a mountain? If you are okay with the idea of taking more than 900 steps to Nanshan Peak, then I would recommend this to be on you itinerary as the view from the top is awesome. Get to see the modern city of Shenzhen and Hong Kong ranges on the other side of Deep Bay at a bird’s eye view.

Our group hailed a cab and alighted at the foot of the Nanshan Park, at around 4:00PM. As per some travellers, going up and back the foot of Nanshan can take around two to three hours depending on your pace. I am not a pro trekker but arrived at the peak in 45 minutes and the descend was a good 30 minutes.
There is no fee going up the trail.
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3. OCT East
It is dubbed as Shenzhen’s Universal Studios and I am guessing it’s because of the globe structure at the entrance that resemble’s the icon of the world-renowned theme park. OCT East is a major entertainment and resort complex in Shenzhen. Its theme park feature is divided into three sections- The Knight Valley, The Wind Valley and The Tea Stream Resort Valley.
Since we allotted only half a day for OCT East, we exclusively went to one section of the park – The Knight Valley. We hopped on The Wood Coaster, which by far and insanely the fastest I have ridden. There’s also a show similar to Universal Studios’ Waterworld show which was fun to watch, even if we did not understand any word the casts were saying since the skit was in Mandarin. There were two attractions that needed 3D glasses and is required to pay RMB2.00 for a pair of paper 3D glasses. Be sure not to throw the glasses as you’ll be needing it on the second attraction – 4000 Miles to Earth Center. And if you’re game getting wet, why not hop on the log drop. 😉

Knight Valley Day trip entrance fee is at RMB200, while Tea Stream Valley at RMB180. You may purchase a day package bundle of RMB300 for the two valleys. (Price as of May 2018 and may change withour prior notice.)
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4. Splendid China Folk Village
Splendid China Folk Village is a theme park that focuses on highlighting China’s history, culture, art, ancient architecture, customs and habits of the Chinese. The park includes two areas – China Folk Culture Village and Splendid China Miniature Park.
Entrance to the park is at RMB 200.00. Tram Fee is RMB20.00 and bag deposit at RMB10.00. (Prices as of May 2018 and may change without prior notice.) 
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5. Sea World
A good place to go when you are craving for international and asian cuisine when in Shenzhen. One of its attractions is a ship in the middle of the complex – the  Lowenburg German Hotel and Restaurant. And check out the fun 15-minute light and fountain show that happens daily at 7PM and 8PM.
How to get to Sea World by train: Hop on Subway Line 2 (Shekou Line) towards and alight at Sea World.
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6. Food trip at Dongmen Food Square
Since our hotel was in Dongmen area, we pass by Dongmen square atleast twice a day – in the morning to hop on a train and back to the hotel to retire for the day. The place gets packed as early as 8AM, and gets even more crowded at night, specially on weekends.

This is the best place to sample Shenzhen’s streetfood for Dongmen Foodsquare has compiled the best vendors for you – just like Singapore’s Makansutra. I personally love  the Taiwanese pancakes, the squid on a stick  and the mutton skewers! If you are adventurous enough, try the pig’s feet. 😛

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And if you love milk tea just like me, then this is a happy spot for you as well because every corner of this place has a milk tea shop. Plus it houses two of my favorite milk tea brands – 1 and Coco. Also, got introduced to another tea brand -Answer Tea, which I also adore for it’s tasty and creamy milk.

7. Shopping at Dongmen.
Good thing about shopping at Dongmen is that the products are well presented, and no haggling needed as everything is of fixed price.
So if you don’t have the patience to haggle the tags, Dongmen is the place for you to shop.
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With Airasia’s direct flights to Shenzhen from Cebu daily, exploring this part of China is now even easier for us southsiders. Book through the Air Asia App or through their website, AirAsia.com.

Leaving you guys with this Shenzhen sample itinerary + expense estimate that might help you plan your Shenzhen adventure soon.

Day 0: Departure 
Wednesday |  Total Expense for the day: P2,370
11:35PM – Departure from Mactan Cebu International Airport (P1620 Travel tax+ P750 Trminal Fee)

Day 1: Arrival and 1st Day 
Thursday | Total Expense: RMB 568, exchange rate is P8.50 = Php4,828
2:40AM – Arrival in Shenzhen
3:00AM – Hail a Cab to Colour Inn Hotel (normally it’s only RMB150 but since we ride those contract drivers upon arrival, we were charged RMD 300. There were 3 of us so we divided the bill to 3)
4:00AM – Arrive in Hotel
5:00AM – Sleep
8:30AM- Breakfast (Free Hotel Breakfast)
9:30AM – Take a Bath
10:30AM Leave Hotel
11:30AM Lunch (RMB 30)
12:15AM Go to Splendid China Folk Village (Train Fare: RMB 4.00)
12:45AM Tour Splendid China Folk Village (ENtrance Fee: RMB 200)
3:00PM Leave Splendid China and Head to WOW
3:20PM Tour Windows of the World and stay until the closing show (RMB200)
8:00PM Head back to Dongmen (fare: RMB 4.00)
8:30PM Dinner (RMB 30.00)
9:30PM Back to the hotel
10:00PM Sleep

Day 2: OCT East
Friday | Total Expense: RMB 500 x Php 8.50 = P4,250
8:00AM – Wake up
8:15AM Breakfast
9:00AM Bath
10:00AM Leave Hotel for OCT East (hail a cab) cab bill RMB 150, divided by 3 = RMB50
11:00AM Tour OCT East and buy day pass tickets for both Valleys RMB 300
11:30AM Ride the Log Drop
12:30Noon Lunch RMB50
1:00PM Watch the Waterworld show
2:00PM Ride the Wood Coaster
2:30PM 4000 Miles to Earth’s Center
3:00PM 6D experience
3:15PM Go to Tea Valley
3:30PM Tour Tea Valley
6:30PM Dinner RMB50
7:00PM watch the show and fireworks
8:00PM head home, Cab fare RMB50
9:00PM Back in the hotel
10:00PM Sleep

Day 3: Last Day
Saturday | Total Expense: RMB 368 X P8.50= P3,128
8:00AM Wake up
8:15AM Breakfast
9:00AM Take a Bath
10:00AM Check out at the hotel & leave bags at the concierge. Advice to be back at 9PM
10:30AM Walk to the train station and ride a train to Shopping Park Station to Ping An, RMB 4
11:15AM Lunch before heading up Ping An observatory RMB 30
12:00Noon Purchase ticket to Ping An Observatory RMB 200
2:00PM – Leave Ping An and hail a cab to Nanshan Park RMB 30
2:40PM – Start going up Nanshan
3:40PM – Arrive at the peak. Relax for a 30 minutes.
4:20PM – Start going down
5:20PM – Arrive at the foot of the mountain and walk your way to Sea World (about 15 minute walk) or you can hail a cab.
6:00PM Dinner at Sea World. For budget travelers, there’s fastfood joints in the area too. RMB 30
7:30PM Walk your way to where the fountain show is and wait for the 8PM light and fountain show.
7:45PM Catch a train back to the Dongmen (or the place where you are staying) Rmb 4
8:30PM Get my last dose of Bubble Milk Tea and get fave snacks RMB 20
9:30PM a quick shopping in Dongmen
10:30PM back in the hotel
11:00PM hail a cab to the airport RMB 150 divided by 3 = RMB 50
12:00Midnight Airport

Day 4: Departure
1:00AM check in
2:00AM Pass immigration and security inspection
2:30AM relax and wait for flight
3:45AM Flight back to Cebu
6:30AM Land in Cebu

Total Expense Estimate: PhP14,576

The total expense estimate does not include airfare, accommodation, visa fee and hotel key deposit. Also, since we were three in the group during the trip, cab fares were divided to three. 😉

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