Soaking Up Some Culture

We crossed the boarder into the bustling city of Shenzhen yesterday afternoon.  We came up here for a two day break and we specifically aimed to take in some of the sights and sounds of this relatively new city.  Shenzhen is located on the northern boarder of Hong Kong’s New Territories – a short 45 minute taxi from where we live on Lantau Island.

Today we decided to visit the China Folk Cultural Village.  This huge theme type village is located in the western part of Shenzhen city and it took us 30 minutes to get there on the Metro from Lo Wu.  We had not travelled on the Metro during our previous visits to Shenzhen and we were glad we made the effort this time.  We were very impressed by the cleanliness of the trains and the courtesy of the locals.  Unfortunately the ticketing system is not as efficient as Hong Kong’s Octopus system however the automated ticketing machines allowed us to “interface” in English and we worked it out rather quickly.  Hot tip – make sure you have 5RMB notes or some coin as some machines don’t take bills greater that 5RMB.

The “green line” of the Metro runs from Lo Wu to Shenzhen’s airport and the Cultural Village is located en route.  We were able to get a seat for the short trip to the Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) station – our destination for today’s adventure.  The Cultural Village is a 5 minute walk from the exit at OCT so it wasn’t long before we  were passing through the village’s main gates.  Entry into the village was 130RMB each – a reasonable price to pay for the extensive displays and shows.

Neither of us had any idea of what to expect during our visit to the village but we were both quite taken back by the expansive layout of the place.  Our first impressions (and they lasted throughout the day) were that it is clean, terrifically signposted and has something for people of all ages.  In fact, if you were an invalid or just wanting to rest your legs, you can drive yourself around in small electric carts – free of charge!

The village’s main purpose is to present the various cultures that are represented in the Chinese population.  Each of the culture’s unique way of living, their religious beliefs and their ceremonies and costumes are represented throughout the village’s huge expanse.  Temples, bridges, rivers, lakes  and lantern lined pathways provide photographers with some wonderful photo opportunities and we never tired of taking in the sights and sounds on offer.

Today is a week day and a school day here in China and from the moment we arrived in the village it was obvious that many of the local schools were taking their students on study visits to the village.  Both of us enjoyed the continuous interactions with the school children – all of whom were polite and friendly. Many of them greeted us with “Welcome to China” and they were obviously very proud to be able to “show off” this city attraction.  Indeed, we felt like celebraties at different times during the day as we were “mobbed” by excited children wanting to try out their english language skills on us.  None of them were pushy and they were all happy to listen and learn.  Patient teachers and aides ensured that “when the time was right” the children were moved onto their next venue – but not before polite thank you’s and goodbyes were said.

It became apparent to us that perhaps we should have arrived at the Cultural Village earlier than we did because the sheer size of the place was almost worthy of a two day visit.  We did manage to see the majority it however this took the best part of 7 hours and we didn’t attend some of the shows that were on offer.  However, there is always next time!

After leaving the village (around 1800) we walked across the road to commercial area of OCT.  The map that we had showed that there was a Walmart in the area and we thought it would be interesting to check out a Chinese Walmart store.  On the way to the area where Walmart was located we found a Starbucks!  It felt like we were in downtown USA.  Our bodies were a little devoid of coffee after the 7 hours in the Cultural Village so it was nice to sit down and sip on a hot beverage.

Walmart was across the street from Starbucks (not that it was very well signposted) so after downing our lattes we ventured off in search of some more of what the USA exports around the world.

Walmart are aiming to roll out over 1000 stores across China in the next decade and there are already 20 of them in Shenzhen.  The one we visited was quite new.  If you imagine a Walmart in suburban USA and fill it full of Chinese signage and Chinese style foods and goods then you will get the picture of what we experienced here in Shenzhen.  The store was very well laid out, clean and orderly and with enough people in it to make us realise that consumerism is well and truly alive here in China.  With over a billion people in this country I don’t think Walmart will have any problems filling 1000 stores!

The nearest Metro entrance to Walmart was a short walk from the store and without any crowds to contend with we were able to purchase our return ticket to Lo Wu without waiting.  The train arrived after a few minutes and despite not being able to get a seat, the 30 minute return trip to Lo Wu was very comfortable.

The hotel we are staying at (Best Western Felicity) is located nearby the Metro station in Lo Wu so after working out which exit we needed to take we made our way across to the hotel and back to our very comfortable room on the 24th floor.

In summary – we had a wonderful day of taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of China and we would highly recommend a visit to the China Folk Cultural Village if you are planning a visit to Shenzhen.  Give yourself plenty of time to see the expansive layout and to take in some of the shows that are on offer at the village.  Oh, and be adventurous with your travel too – take the efficient and clean Metro and mix it up with the friendly locals.  You won’t be disappointed.

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