China Trip Day 2: Impressions of Shenzhen

Joe Heitzeberg
April 28, 2013

Today we took the train from Hong Kong through the New Territories to Shenzhen, a city of over 10 million which basically didn’t exist 30 years ago. Though both Hong Kong and Shenzhen are part of China, the border control that separates the two is formidable; two layers of 20-foot walls with large rolls of razor wire and guard towers. Processing is efficient and hundreds fill the border control station at any given time. We noted thermal scanners to detect bird flu and other infections and were surprised and envious to see that travelers are provided customer satisfaction voting machines to rate the bureaucrats processing each passport and visa. We were in Shenzhen to meet Eric Pan of Seeed Studio (more on this in a later post.)

When I first visited Shenzhen 20 years ago, it was a bustling city largely concentrated in one area near the border station. Now, it’s a sprawling city filled with highways and construction sites that extend in every direction. We rode the subway (built less than 10 years ago) for one-and-a-half hours to reach our destination, and were still nowhere near the end of the line. At our destination we found a mix of farmland stretching off to one side and high rises and construction cranes on the other.

In Hong Kong you see cafes, colonial buildings, banking towers and warehouses, and on the street you see people from every country speaking every language whereas Shenzhen feels like a working city dominated by high rises and construction sites where you rarely hear foreign languages. Crossing back into Hong Kong we felt a sense of relief of homecoming. We met up with Max and Daniel from 3Doodler for some beers (more on that later.)

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