Saturday, 5 October 2013

Fun in Shenzhen

Lowu Commercial City on the left, the border control building on the right
This afternoon I took a young American cousin of mine who is studying in Hong Kong to Shenzhen for the day.

It was an opportunity to give her a taste of what China is like since she will be going to Shanghai later next week.

We took a while to get organized, changing money and then getting to the Hunghom train station. And then we had to go through passport control on the Hong Kong side and then in China... so by the time we finally arrived in Shenzhen it was almost 2pm.

The last time I was in Shenzhen was over a year ago and in the evening so I couldn't see how the area had changed. Now we could see the metro is connected to Lo Wu Commercial City next to the border. We saw a long narrow skylight on the ground, which prompted my cousin to remark it looked like a cool fashion catwalk.

We decided to head to a nice loo before lunch and so we headed to the closest hotel, the Shangri-La. Before we would walk towards the end of the street to the hotel, but now there was a street with no intersection allowing us to cross and so we had to use the underpass.

A dizzying array of things to buy inside the mall at Lowu
When we approached the hotel, there was a heated shouting match between two taxi drivers that caused a lot of tension the hotel doormen could not diffuse, and so we didn't stay long and went inside the hotel. By the time we came out which was some 10 minutes later, both were gone.

Lo Wu Commercial City isn't as busy as it used to be, but there are still some shoppers here to get curtains made, and buy fake handbags and shoes. Clothes aren't the casual ones like they used to be -- seems the rent has increased that it only makes sense to sell relatively more expensive items.

Food is still a good deal though -- at one of the restaurants, Lee Yuen, we ordered too much dim sum for two people and the bill came to over 150 yuan ($24.50). We even took the char siu bao back with us.

Meanwhile the choice of handbags is still pretty good, though the boutiques don't show all their best wares and instead use the ploy of having you sit down and browse through a catalogue from which you choose items and then runners go and pick them up from secret locations in the building.

There are still various grades of fakes, and they always show you the best ones first in the hopes of generating a good sale. In our case it was a Chiuchow woman named Amy who made small talk with us while her assistants were sent to get goods for us to look at.

She told us she didn't have a high school education and came to Shenzhen for work and landed this job after her boss thought she would be honest and hardworking. Amy even admitted not knowing any brand names before she started, and also learned Cantonese, and some English. It seems like she's doing well, as she recently gave birth to her third child, a boy (the other two were girls).

I asked Amy how she could have three children, but she explained that as she's Chiuchow, families are expected to have boys, and also the fines in her hometown are not too high -- several tens of thousands of yuan per child, compared to some 250,000 yuan in Shenzhen.

After we were done handbag shopping, we got a massage at one of the many shops that offers foot, shoulder and hand massages as well as manicures and pedicures. We got the hard sell for pedicures and manicures from a woman, but we just wanted to massage our feet.

Two men massaged our feet and legs and had a good time chatting with us, teasing my cousin for her dark tan and appreciating my fair skin and nice feet. She couldn't stop laughing at this observation. It was her first accupressure foot massage but I promised she would sleep well tonight. My masseuse even massaged up my leg and towards my butt which was enlightening to say the least!

We were told the massage was 30 yuan per hour so I asked the masseuse how much they made. For every 30-yuan massage, they got 7.50 yuan which ended up to between 1,500 yuan to 2,000 yuan per month.

My cousin was shocked at the low salary, but I explained that this was a job that required not much education and not too difficult to learn. After the massage we were about to give a 10 yuan tip, when my cousin's masseuse demanded a 20 yuan tip. So that's how they make their salary! Nevertheless a 50 yuan massage for an hour is still a great deal.

After that we headed home, but not without sampling the egg custard tarts at KFC that were buttery delicious!

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