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Brief Trip to Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a major Chinese city adjacent to Hong Kong. It is a vibrant economic power house, home to the Shenzhen stock exchange and many top-tier technology firms. With 9 million residents, its population has surpassed Hong Kong despite its short history of about 30 years only.

Although I grew up next door in Hong Kong, somehow I have never visited Shenzhen (besides using it as a jump off point to other parts of China). Yesterday I have an opportunity to take a dip into the city. It was an unplanned trip. I know nothing about the layout of the city. I have not even bother to purchase a map since it is only going to be a few hours. Instead I just trust my instinct. I jumped on the metro and managed to emerge in the heart of the central business district.

Shenzhen business district
Shenzhen Business District
Upscale Shopping Mall
Upscale Shopping Mall

It was more than 10 years since my last visit to China. During the time the economic and urban development of China has make huge stride. I want to witness the extend of development myself. If a cityscape of glass-clad office towers and upscale shopping mall is an indicator, Shenzhen has surely joined the rank of world class cities. The Central City Shopping mall is as good as any great mall in the world. Satisfied with what I saw, I decided to move on.

According to the map in the metro station, there is a large garden outside of the mall. I set off to explore it. The garden is separated from the mall by a wide boulevard. In order to access it, it seems I have to get on an elevated walkway. But how do I access the walkway?? This has become an unexpected challenge for me. I walk in and out and around the mall before I finally found the unobvious access to the rooftop garden.

Central Park
Central Park

The park is an oasis in the large city. It is well manicured with stylish fixtures that any city will be proud of. It is also a great refuge for birds and a delightful place to hear their chirping. There is only one issue though. The park is eerily devoid of people. I mean this is a prime real estate in the center of a metropolitan. Where is everybody? New York's Central Park it is not, all I can see is just a sea of green. Perhaps no one is as foolish as me to go outdoor under midday's summer heat. But I suspect this is not the only problem. Perhaps the park's access difficulty has challenged not only me but also the locals.

Shenzhen Cultural Center
Shenzhen Cultural Center

I went out to see the soaring architecture of the Shenzhen Cultural Center on the other side of the park. I figure the building is too far for me to walk to. So my goal is to find a vintage point to take a good picture. This require a long walk through some confusing pathway in an empty park. But the walk just keep getting longer without going anywhere. Many times I have considered to give up my pursuit. This will be a slap in my face since I pride myself in my wayfinding skill. When I finally reached the edge of the park, I found a boulevard and the cultural center in a distant. Nice architecture. But there seems no way for me to continue the walk. It is not even an inviting landscape for a pedestrian. I just took my picture and then walked back.

By now I have spent a fair amount of time walking under the sun. I need to return to civilization to grab my lunch. But there are more long trek before I have finally reached a shopping center and its food court. I finally got a sense of Shenzhen's cityscape. It is a new city done in grand scale, wide boulevards, monument buildings and huge parks. But it is not a livable city that I enjoy.

Las Vegaseque Sheraton Hotel
Las Vegaseque Sheraton Hotel

You can tell I was getting cranky. The lousy Chinese fast food I have had did not help either. I rushed back to the Hong Kong side to end this short trip.

2010.06.30 [, ] - comments

 

Pedestrians v.s. Cars - Pedestrians Win!

Causeway Bay is a major shopping district in Hong Kong. Gazillion number of people come by Causeway Bay every day. Over the year, one street after another have been converted into pedestrian use. Instead of squeezing into overcrowded sidewalk, more space are make available for pedestrian. This makes walking in Causeway Bay a much better experience.

Causeway Bay Pedestrian Street

Hennessy Road is the major thoroughfare in Causeway Bay. The surrounding streets are often narrow and labyrinth like. These streets were once only backstreets behind major department stores. Today they are destinations themselves with many boutiques stores and restaurants. These side streets are lousy for moving traffic but terrific for walking and shopping. It is a superb idea to close them for cars and open them for pedestrians.

Causeway Bay Pedestrian Street

Some streets have permanently converted into pedestrian plaza. They are nicely paved and raised to level with the sidewalk. But in other area, it is not obvious what has been done to restrict vehicle access. In the picture above, the only control device seems to be the sign that says "Access Only". In the morning the streets are lined with delivery truck, those access is expressly allowed. Still access restriction is working quite well with relatively few vehicles coming in. The taxi in the picture below is one of those.

Causeway Bay Pedestrian Street

With few physical marking, how do I recognize this as a newly created pedestrian area? I think the pedestrians themselves make it a pedestrian street. When sufficient number of people come off the sidewalk and go into the street, it makes driving through difficult. Cars become intruder there. These pictures are taken in the morning when actions have barely started. I'm sure when people are coming out in full force in the evening it will become impassable for cars.

2010.06.29 [] - comments

 

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