Once as a small village in the south of China, Shenzhen is now one of the wealthiest cities in the country due to the “reform and opening” policy, established in 1978, as one of the Special Economic Zones. Its growth is gradually attracting more and more curious foreign travelers to experience the city’s vibrancy and modernism. To me, visiting a new place is more than going to places where all the travelers assemble. Visiting a new place also means exploring local culture, eating local foods, joining local activities, and talking to local people. When I traveled to Cancun in Mexico with my husband, we did not stay in the resort or get lost in the bars and restaurants like most travelers. Instead, we rented a car and visited local town for our adventure. We visited local supermarkets, bought a few bottles of Habanero sauce, and went to local mom-and-pop stores to buy wood-carving sculptures, while practicing my poor Spanish to bargain. We enjoyed our experience very much and think that it is a more interesting way to experience and understand culture. That’s why I come up with a list of seven fun activities you can do while visiting Shenzhen that will make you feel like a local. Without further ado, here is the list:
1. Morning Workout at Lotus Hill Park
Located in the center of the city, Lotus Hill Park is a perfect place to explore nature and enjoy leisure activities. Morning workout at Lotus Mountain Park is especially popular among retired people. Walking around the park, you will see there are endless activities going on: people practicing Tai Chi, ladies gathering in groups and doing traditional Chinese dances, some jogging, others walking around the park while listening to radio. If you stay in the park till later during the day, you will see there are younger people joining the crowd for other activities: boating, fishing and even flying kites.
On top of the Park, there is a plaza. In the middle of the plaza stands a copper statue in memory of Deng Xiaoping, a highly respected Chinese leader who initiated “”reform and opening” policy that made Shenzhen what it is today. Though this statue is most popular with travelers, even locals visit this plaza from time to time to remember what he has done for the city.
2. Dim Sum
Now, how about some food after a morning walk at the Park? Dim sum restaurants are one of the places that should go into your “must-do” list, while you visit Shenzhen. Guangdong, where Shenzhen is located, is the hometown of dim sum. If you already think your nearby Chinese restaurants offer the best dim sum in your country, I am guessing you may want to put your decision on hold until you try original Guangdong dim sum.
Interestingly, locals almost never call it “dim sum”, but “morning tea”. As you can tell from its name, having dim sum is a morning activity. In some places, you can have "morning tea" as early as 7:00am. If you are curious enough to have dim sum at seven in the morning, you are likely to be surrounded by groups of retired people, as it becomes a routine that they get up very early, excise in the local parks and then "morning tea" sum afterwards. Below I have listed three top rated dim sum restaurants in Shenzhen for you to visit:
1F, 1001 Central Walk, 3 Fuhua 1st Rd, Futian, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China 518048
Address: 1-3 F, 4002 Shengtingyuan Hotel East Block, Huaqiang North Rd., Futian, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
1F, Portofino Club House, Xiangshan Jie, OCT, Nanshan, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
After dim sum, you could explore the KTV culture in this city. Just as clubbing is very popular among American young people, KTV is considered one of the most popular leisure activities among younger generations in China. Because there is a high demand for KTV, there are a lot of supplies. That means singing Karaoke in China does not cost you as much as an American Karaoke place costs you, especially when you pick a right time. For example, some businesses offer a deal that, if you sing on a weekday from 12:00pm to 6:00pm, it only costs less than RMB 100 (about $17) to book a room of four. What’s more, the KTV rooms are nicely furnished to make sure customers have a good experience. $4 per person to sing for six hours on a weekday at a nice place? That sounds like a pretty good deal! Below are two of the popular KTV places that I recommend:
California Red KTV
1-3 F, No 88 Nanyuan Rd., Huaqiang Nan, Futian, Guangdong, China
1-4 F, No. 66 Jia Zhao Ye Center, Nanyuan Rd. Futian, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
4. Foot Massage
Sitting in a dark KTV room for too long makes your body stiff? Here is when foot massage comes into play. Foot massage is very popular among local Shenzhen citizens. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, our body, along with innate organs, connects to different points on the feet. Pressing those points can help those organs function better. Therefore, foot massage is good for circulation. Also, it stimulates metabolism, improves your sleep, removes your stress and improves your immune system. In most cases, the water that goes with foot massage is more than just water. Traditional Chinese medicines will go with hot water to help with the detoxification and relaxation.
5. Shopping at East Gate Shopping District
After you are done with foot massage, you must feel relaxed. Now we are fully ready to go for a long walk – shopping at East Gate! When Shenzhen was first established as a Special Economic Zone, East Gate was the earliest commercial center and led fashion trends. It is an important symbol that showcases Shenzhen’s modernization progress, hence one of the most treasured cultural heritages in the city. Nowadays, besides small stores, there are also big department stores. As one of the favorite places for local high school kids, this area attracts as many as 300,000 shoppers per day on average. The number reaches as high as 500,000 when it is the holiday season. If you look for good deals and would like to practice your bargaining skills, this is a good place to go.
6. Shopping at Downtown
As the city develops, there are more and more modern shopping malls in downtown. Sadly, there are places where you cannot bargain, as those are places with higher-end brands and luxury brands. One commonality of those malls is that they are places where you can shop, eat and enjoy movies at one spot. If you would like to experience the metropolitan side of Shenzhen, then you can explore those areas.
5016 Shennan East Road Luohu, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China 518001
268 Fuhua 3rd Rd, Futian, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, 518048
7. Evening After-Dinner Walk at Lotus Hill Park
When you are done with shopping and finish your dinner in one of the malls listed above, it is time to return to Lotus Hill Park. As evening walking outside in the park is very popular locally, Lotus Hill Park in the evening can be as crowded as Lotus Hill Park in the morning. Locals treat it as a chance for exercise, a way to digest foods they eat, an opportunity for relationship bonding as sometimes a whole family go out and walk in the park together. Different kinds of sounds fill the air: kids’ laughter, radio, dancing music, people’s chatting and biking – a perfect way to end the day with leisure and fun.