Today, as it's one of our last days on our travelling expedition, we wanted to do something that would take out of our comfort zone - something that would feel a bit different.
To that extent we organised a trip over into mainland China today - to the City of Shenzhen (pronounced "SHIN-GIN"). What a ride.
Although we are brave and strong - we decided on taking the safe route of booking a day-trip through the Official China Travel Service (CTS). This travel agency seems to be the one that is recommended everywhere and besides, it was only 40 quid a pop!
The great thing about this trip was that we could enter Shenzhen on a group visa (instead of a full blown single visa), which means that the visa was part of the fee! Yay for us.
So... this morning we met up with the other people on our trip, a really friendly family from Wellington, after being picked up from our Hotel. After getting a lift to the train station on the mainland, we took the train to the border first-class! Although first class sound exciting, it basically meant that we had a chair!
At the border (or more of a 'frontier' really) we went through the system. The best thing about the Hong Kong - Shenzhen border is that is has a full blown no-man's land. You leave Hong Kong immigration and have to cross a 20 metre bridge to the otherside. As you look across there is a full on 'Berlin Wall' on the Hong Kong side with loads of barbed wire. On the other side Chinese immigration meant business. It was time to be very serious and get through to the otherside, which we managed to do!
Once in the city, the tour guide took us to a local market. Now in China, the theory is that if it's alive, then it's still fresh. So that includes frogs, chickens and fish. I've never seen someone take a massive fish out of the tank and throw it on the floor. It's a mighty sight. The trader's son then went around whacking all the fish on the floor with a bat, thus killing them. Now I'm not saying it's wrong... it's just different. I've never seen anything like it. I guess us Westerners are never really around to see what happens to the animal until it is frozen and in a box at the supermarket.
We checked out a local supermarket on the same road to see which western products were around. Very little to be fair, although we spotted Oreos (American buscuits), 7up (massive in Shenzhen!), Pringles and beers: Heineken and San Miguel.
But! No Chocolate anywhere! Not a single bar! Who stole all the chocolate?
From there we went to an exhibition of the Terracotta Army (You know, thousands of clay soldiers, all together in Northern China), which contained five of the actual warriors. Sadly, no photos, but the staff at the exhibition were definately up for the hard sell, pushing us towards various teas and replica items.
From there we headed off to the main shopping centre in Shenzhen, so check out the scene. Now the hawking / heckling scene here was the strongest we've seen it in Asia. Even worse than Khao San Road, Bangkok! Some of the people in the stores were grabbing our arms trying to get us to go in the shops. That didn't seem to want to understand "no". One guy showed us a 10p piece and pointed to the Queen and said "You know this man?".
They haven't quite fine tuned their bargaining technique yet:
Gareth: How much are these sunglasses?
Trader: They're 280 Yen
Gareth: No way! That's too much!
Trader: Ok. How much would you pay?
Gareth: 60 Yen
Shenzhen is amazing though. It is said to be China's 'showpiece city' and it certainly is impressive.
What a stunning way to end our year!
Hey - so it's Macau tomorrow, then on Thursday we take the big flight home!
Lots of love from Gareth and Helen x x x