The Shenzhen Adventure: Part Deux

Trip Start Jul 02, 2011
Trip End Aug 15, 2012

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Flag of China  , Guangdong,
Sunday, February 5, 2012

After I returned from Beijing I decided to take a quick jaunt through Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau.  Why?  Well, I have friends in Shenzhen I wanted to visit, Hong Kong used to be British controlled so I thought I might be able to find mustache wax there (along with some good pizza or some other food), and Macau was the longest foreign held colony in China so it has a ton of great architecture, along with a large number of casinos.   Unfortunately accommodations in Hong Kong are at the same time both insanely expensive and undesirable, and if the rooms aren't expensive and undesirable, then they are outside of town and require an expensive taxi ride.  And the only decent hostel I found in Macau was full up on the days I wanted to stay there.  So I cancelled those parts of the trip and just focused on Shenzhen!  Not a bad trade off at all.  I planned to spend Friday-Monday in Shenzhen, arriving Friday and leaving on Monday.
Before I could make it to Shenzhen though, I promised a friend and high school student at my school, King Wall, that I would visit his family in DaLang town which is two towns over.  So I packed up my things Friday morning and caught the bus around 9:00AM, arriving in DaLang at about 11:00AM.

 I met up with King Wall and his mother near their home.  She immediately handed me two red envelopes (Chinese: 红包; Pinyin: hngbāo).  Red envelopes are something that adults give to children and unmarried adults during the Spring Festival (Chinese: 春节; Pinyin: chūnji) for good luck.  Luckily, I had been warned by King Wall that I might receive a gift, and so I had come prepared with some gifts of my own from the States.  King Wall is interested in attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the future, so I gave him two sets of postcards from Wisconsin that highlight the dairy industry that were sent to me from my aunt Roxy.  I explained to him where Wisconsin was, and how the Duluth and Superior are the cities that straddle the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

We took a taxi to King Wall's grandparents home.  They are the first people I have met in China who live in a house instead of an apartment.  You can see from the photos below what it looks like.  The entrance is a round hole with metal doors in front of it that face an alley.  Above the entrance is his grandfather's office; he used to be the mayor of this village, and still appears to be involved in business or government of some sort.  The house is three stories high, and has an annex kitty corner from it that is two stories high which contains the kitchen, dining room and wash room.  You can see the fake orange trees, the decorations around the doorway and hanging from the roof.  These are all set up for the new year, as is the table you see inside with incense burning on it.  King Wall also gifted me with two sets of hangers to put around the doorway of my home; how thoughtful!  They also have a beautiful garden inside their home.  The entire home is walled in, from the alley on one side to the pond on the back side (don't get too excited, the pond is obscured from view, and also polluted).  The flowers and trees inside the courtyard beautiful, and they also have a dog as a pet and some chickens and geese for slaughter.

They fed us a wonderful lunch of chicken, goose, fish, boiled greens, rice, etc.  My favorite was the chicken stomach, it had the best flavor.  King Wall's grandmother and aunt also both gave me red envelopes during this time, and so I gave his grandmother two USA themed pins that you can wear on a shirt.  After dinner King Wall's aunt drove me to the train station in Changping (one town over, about a 15 minute drive) which was out of her way and very nice of her!  I have to thank King Wall for inviting me, I had a wonderful time at his grandparents home!


The train ride to Shenzhen is quick.  My favorite thing to do is to ask for the ticket seller to give me a standing ticket, whether I have luggage or not.  Because it's only a 30-40 minute trip, depending on whether you are going north to Guangzhou or south to Shenzhen, it's not a pain to stand for that time.  So I get on in the car they assign me, then walk through to car 5 which is the first-class and dining car.  Then I just set my backpack on the floor behind me and stand at one of the counters in the dining car, and maybe order a pop if I'm feeling especially adventurous.  No one seems to mind, and if they do they never ask me to leave.  I never see anyone else do this, but it seems really slick to me, and much more preferable to sitting in the train seats between two other people with my luggage stored overhead.

Once we arrive in Shenzhen, it's just a few minutes walk within the station to get to the metro/subway (Chinese: 地铁; Pinyin: Dtiě).  After that it's a 25 minute subway ride to Qiaocheng East (Chinese: 侨城东; Pinyin: qio chng dōng) metro station, where I got off and walked to my hostel.  The hostel was only about a 15 minute walk from the metro station which was very convenient.  The neighborhood it is located in is called the 'Overseas Chinese Town' in English.  It's owned by a development company, along with the nearby 'Window of the World' and 'Happy Valley', which has built up the area into a beautiful scene.  There are many trees, shrubs, bike paths, gardens, squares, art areas, etc. to enjoy.  More about that later though.  I arrived at my hostel, and was very pleased at what I saw!  It was located in an old factory dormitory that had been entirely remodeled and re-purposed as a hostel.  This particular hostel doesn't have a website that I know of, but they belong to an association called Hostelling International.  This is the second HI hostel I've stayed at (the first being in Sanya, Hainan), and I can't recommend them enough.  They have locations all over the world, and I suggest if you do plan a trip and there is a HI hostel nearby, it's worth it to check it out!  I got one bed in one of their three person dormitory rooms for just under $10 a night.  That's a pretty good deal.  Anyway, enough advertising.

The place was pretty cool, and you can see that from the photos below I think.  I was surprised at how clean it was (no offense); they even swept the roof every day!  They have different style rooms, but mine was the only one I actually saw the inside of.  We had one bathroom shared among nine beds, but I didn't have a problem with access during my stay.  I tell you what, though, a hot shower and a western style toilet are a nice pairing that I didn't part with easily when I left this place!




After I got settled in, I hoofed it out into the evening.  It was maybe six o'clock in the evening, so I did a quick walk around the art neighborhood that I was attached too, looking at all the pretty horses and paintings on the walls.  I could tell that this was a neighborhood I would love (a bunch of creative people!  Cool!) and also one I wouldn't (hipsters.  everything is expensive.  everyone wants attention).  It was cool though.

I went out into the OCT (Overseas Chinese Town) part, looking at all the pretty trees, the occasional waterfall, and the senior citizens exercising in the square.  It really is a beautiful neighborhood to live in.  There are a few videos below, please enjoy them, they took forever to upload to this website even after I compressed the files, haha.



After I finished gallivanting I was pretty hungry for supper.  It was starting to get dark so I wanted to look for a restaurant, but something pretty caught my eye in the distance: a pagoda.  Oh yeah!  So I forgot about food and started speed walking westward!  One of the reasons I like to travel alone is because I don't need to ask anyones permission but mine to skip a meal or do something that's not on the schedule.  I just do it.  Thanks Nike.

Anyway, I tried to walk straight to it but a military base got in my way, so I ended up not reaching the park until after darkfall.  Yeah, I just made up that word; I like it better than nightfall.  The park stayed open until 11pm, so I had more than enough time to make up this gigantic hill to get to the pagoda and then climb the pagoda.  I figured, I couldn't really understand the gate guard, but I figured guestimation was working in my favor at this point.  I started to climb, and it was an easy grade for the first 20 minutes, slowly winding my way this and that way on a tar road made to take vehicles.  I should mention this park is a place for people to run, meditate, or exercise, because it is a Buddhist park.

After I finished the easy grade, I was stumped on which way to go, as the only way I thought I could get to the pagoda featured a locked gate.  Luckily I was able to ask a guy in Chinese how to get up there, and he told me the way around.  This hill had a higher grade; anyone who went to Saint John's, think about the hill that is between Maur apartments and the parking lot/road behind them, that is the kind of grade this hill was.  After five minutes of that, it reached a peak, and on my left was a stone, kind of shambles-looking staircase.  I couldn't really tell, it was pretty damn dark out by this point, and the stairs led up into what for all intents and purposes was a forest in the middle of the park, so there wasn't much light penetrating from the street lamp lit road.  I figured that I'd come this far, is a scary staircase gonna stop me?  (Note: not only scary because it's dark, and a winding old looking staircase, but also because there are paths and such winding off into the woods every so often so that people can go off and meditate in peace, making the possibility of there being people [silent, Buddhist-ninja type people???!) in this forest extra off-putting)

I hoofed it up the 'Staircase of Stones in Shambles'.  It was 140 steps, constantly turning and curving (remember: dark outside!), to get to the base of the pagoda.  And the gate was locked.  NOOOOOOO!!!!  What a pity, as they say in China.  I was so dissappointed, my venture stopped by a simple gate and some cameras.  Ah well.  I continued on, as there were another 60 steps to the top of the hill, where it was indicated there was a viewing platform to see the city from!  But unfortunately, as with every other viewing platform I've ever been to in China, 'viewing platform' means 'flat area surrounded by trees so you can't see anything you silly man, muahahahaahah!'.  So I stood on top of the boulder you see below and tried to take a photo of the city through the branches.  No luck.

Oh, as for supper, I ended up eating some street food: baozi (Chinese: 包子; Pinyin: Bāozi; English alternative name: Steamed Stuffed Bun), jiaozi (Chinese: 饺子; Pinyin: Jiǎozi; English alternative name: Chinese Dumplings), rice porridge.  And a Coke (Chinese: 可口可乐; Pinyin: Kěkǒukěl).

And as you can see I went to a bar later too, and had some awesome popcorn!  Hard to find good popcorn in China, I tell ya'whut.


Saturday morning I was supposed to meet up with my friend Vicky at the Window of the World, which you may remember from my last visit to Shenzhen.  Vicky is a friend I've never met in person before; she's a close friend of my friend Marina, who I also would have been meeting but she had to go to Guangzhou this weekend to see some friends from college.  So I was to meet Vicky at about 11:00AM at the Window of the World entrance.  Window of the World is within walking distance of my hotel, maybe 20 minutes (about 2 metro stops west of my stop).   She said she'd be a little late though, but it afforded me the chance to witness a man walking with two dogs.  But the one dog had the leash of the other in the mouth.  It was a dog walking a dog.  I laughed so hard people around me stared at me more than they normally do!

Anyway, Vicky finally showed up and said she had a surprise for me, and to follow her into the subway entrance.  Whoa!  Marina was there waiting!  So cool, two girls for the price of one! Haha.  Her friends ended up having to do something else that weekend, so she was free to come see me.  So, we went for a walk to find the restaurant I went to with Johnny last time I was in Shenzhen, which happened to be near my hotel.  What a convenient area!

After lunch we went for a walk, and considered going up to the pagoda tower to see if it would be open, but the girls were wearing heels so we just looked around in the gardens of the park a bit, and witnessed some teens doing flips off of a giant flower statue.  After a supper of Japanese noodles we said our farewells!



Sunday morning I had set up time to Skype with Henry Gruber, a cousin of mine.  He asked me to Skype into a Gruber family reunion and talk about China a bit, which sounded fun to me.  While I waited for our times to align (my morning, their evening), I had breakfast at the hostel, which wasn't bad at all and cost about $2.50.

Afterwards I had planned to make my way to the Shekou area of Shenzhen, which is on the little peninsula that just out south of the city proper into the bay.  This is apparently one of the first areas of Shenzhen that had a foreign population after it opened up to foreign investment in the 80's, and has had a lot of foreigners living there since then.  I wanted to go there to go to 'import' stores to see if they might have mustache wax, since I wouldn't be visiting Hong Kong.  Unfortunately, they had none, but they did have AMERICAN MOUNTAIN DEW, which I will tell you is different from Chinese Mountain Dew (and superior in my opinion; I don't buy Chinese Mountain Dew, and I LOVE Mountain Dew.  That should tell you what I think of the taste of Chinese MtDew).

I saw some cool stuff along the way, like the subway warning signs below which I think are hilarious.  Also, the former personal yacht of Jacques Chirac was beached in this area and made into a hotel, so that's pretty interesting.  And for my sister, I saw that in case you ever move here there are people who love dogs and are looking for volunteers!  So, there you go!

I had some lunch at a foreign bar, which was part of a small strip of foreign bars that we'll return to later, and then headed back so I could be ready to head over to my friend Johnny's home!





Once I got back I waited outside until 3:30PM, and like clockwork Johnny showed up in his nice new Toyota Yaris to pick me up!  His home isn't far away, maybe 20 minutes by car.  His mother, father, wife, and future child were waiting for me at his apartment.  It's a nice cozy apartment, and it was nice to finally meet his family!  Johnny's wife is very pregnant, and they are expecting sometime in early March!  Very exciting!  So his parents are there to be able to help out because they are new parents.

Johnny said we were going to have jiaozi (remember, dumplings!), which are one of my favorite dishes!  And I even got to help make them which was cool.  His family had already prepared the stuffing (beef, onion, something else) and the dough, but I was able to help shape the jiaozi.  It was a fun process, and they got a laugh as I tried to improve my technique to try to make mine crappy ones look more and more like their nice ones!  After we made them, his father made the sauce, which is basically just grinding a few cloves of garlic with a pestle and mixing that into soy sauce.  There were two other dishes along with the jiaozi that they had made.  One was eggs and mushrooms, and the other was pork ear and zucchini.  I might be mistaken on the zucchini thing,  but it was definitely pigs ear (which was really good by the way).
Dinner was excellent I must say; I mean, I love jiaozi, but that was a good meal.  After dinner they cleaned up and we had some tea.  Johnny is from the north of China, Liaoning province I believe, as are his parents, but his wife is from the south, in Guangdong province.  So their idea of having tea varies slightly.  The southern Chinese like small cups that they drink in three quick pulls, while the northerners prefer a larger cup that they drink however the hell they please!  So we did the southern style, and had 'kung fu' tea, which I believe was the name of the leaf flavor.

We also had a dessert of tangyuan, which as close as my language skills comes means something like 'sweet balls', which just throws me into a fit of giggling, especially when I realize that I love the taste of those sweet balls.  Anywho, the balls are made of a rice paste outside and inside is some sweet stuff, like maybe chocolate, or just sugar and peanuts; those are the most typical kinds.

After everything was finished, we talked a bit, and then I said goodbye and Johnny and I went for a walk in the park across the street from his neighborhood, chatting about this and that, from fatherhood to the government and everything in between.  I like talking with Johnny, he has a lot to say, but almost none of it is trivial.  We get along really well.  After that Johnny drove me back to my hostel.




In case you can't see the video, this is me explaining that it's Monday morning and I'm about to head out to watch the superbowl!  Unfortunately, I didn't research when it started, so I was half an hour late!  I thought it started at 6:00PM Central time, but I was wrong.  I spent my superbowl at a Senor Frogs in Shekou area, the bar area I scoped out Sunday morning.  It was a good time, I ate breakfast and had two free beers while I watched the game.  The only disappointing part was that we didn't get to see all of the commercials for some reason; the satellite provider would periodically put up a black screen and say that 'we'll return to the game after this commercial break', which would last the entire commercial break.  But, hey, the Giants won so I'm relatively happy.


After I rode the train back to Changping, I had made plans to meet up with a girl I had met just before I left to go to Shenzhen in the first place.  I went out for some food with her and two of her friends, and we had a good time!  They all spoke a bit of English, and they showed me a side of Changping that I don't get to see often.  It pays to make new friends!



And that leads us to the end of the Shenzhen adventure.  As of the moment, I'm sitting in Qiaotou planning lessons and dying from anticipation to know what my schedule will be for classes come Monday morning!  Oooh, also, I trimmed my mustache and goatee for the first time in seven months this week; it was finally long enough that I could trim it to look the way I want; I'm quite pleased!

Take care, I'll post again soon!
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grubear on

Sorry, apparently when I originally posted this it only published the first set of text and photos. I think I've fixed it completely now.

Roxy on

Very entertaining post Logan. Thanks for taking us along!

Matt on

I love reading this stuff bro. You are talented!

grand ma Gruber on

really enjoying this book you are writing , all the pictures , and videos SUPER I LOVE IT !!

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