Thursday, September 11, 2008

By Way of Introduction

I came to  China 4-years ago on a lark, a whim, just to look around. I never had a strong desire to visit Asia, but, at the time, SARS was headlining the newspapers and the airlines were desparate to fill seats on their planes. Round trip tickets to Hong Kong were dirt cheap. So, the adventure began.

After arriving in Hong Kong, I crossed the border into 'Mainland' China, to the city of Shenzhen.

25 years ago, Shenzhen was a fishing 'village' of 35,000 people. Now it's one of the largest cities in Asia with an estimate population of more than 17 million. It has spendid architecture, multi-lane highways lined with trees, topiary, flowers, shrubs, a new subway system that is clean and efficient.

I 'discovered' an area of Shenzhen called "Overseas Chinese Town" (OCT), a development district which has got to be the 'crown jewel' of the city. Link

There are three theme parks in OCT, including Shenzhen's answer to Disneyland called 'Happy Village'. There is a botanical park, many art gallaries, parks, outdoor scuplture, a paved (rubberized) bicycle trail, tennis courts, a huge indoor sports complex (5 swimming pools!) that's now under construction. Across the street from my apartment there are 10 new tennis courts and an excercise park just outside.

Nearby is the world famous 'Dafen Painting Village' with more than 10,000 artists and 500 art gallaries and shops. Link: Dafen Village on YouTube (this is excellent, btw) 

There are a wide variety of green-space 'get aways', all of which encourage outdoor activities. The very hot weather is always a consideration, so the greenery is thick and lush all of year. Artificial lakes and waterways add to the enjoyment. There is even a new mountain that's been designed for recreational climbing...with granite stairs going right the top! It's not as easy as it's very steep. A good hour's cardio-vascular workout, for sure.

In the photo below, the round building in the foreground of the picture is the library of the Shenzhen Tourism College of Jinan University (Guangzhou). Here's a link: Jinan Tourism College

Golf? I hear you ask. There are dozens of golf courses in Shenzhen, including the biggest in the world: 'Mission Hills' (yes, that 'Mission Hills') with twelve complete 18-hole golf courses: 216 holes! Take a two-week holiday and play a different course every day! Link

Later in my postings I'll explore each of the parks and give you some sense of the way nature has been incorporated into the densely populated city. In the photo above, you'll see the success of OCT, the concept was followed and enlarge upon with the construction of "OCT West". An incredible combination of huge European theme park, 'Swiss' hotels and very nice condominium homes with a very nice "old Europe" architectural flair. Austria and Switzerland in miniature. It's really quite spectacular.

I take a lot of photographs. (click on the photos to enlarge the ones I've posted here). My computer tells me it's holding more than 10,000 images. Since my Picassa 'crashed' a few days ago, I've reloaded all the old photos and have re-discovered some gems that I like I'll share them with you. Be sure to visit my photoblog at

(I must offer some 'full disclosure': the aerial shot of OCT West isn't mine: it was taken by one of my English students [four very smart high-school age girls; a few hours each week]. 
She took the photograph from a hot-air balloon!)