The “land of deep drains”, a Special Economic Zone, and what I’m calling home until near the end of 2016: that’s Shenzhen. And I’m almost certain you’ve never heard of it.

For my friends who don’t speak Mandarin (that’s most of you), it’s not pronounced “Shen-ZEN”, it’s more like “Shen-JEN”. It also happens to have over 10,000,000 people living in it. That’s over 4 times as many as my hometown of Chicago (about 2,500,000). It still baffles me how I had no clue that such a large city existed and I had no idea that it was there.

It doesn’t feel like there’s that many people, especially since I live in an expatriate area named “Shekou” (蛇口), or literally, “The serpent’s mouth”. It sounds much cooler than it really is, though there is a big boat and a place called “Sea World” nearby (no relation to Shamu or other aquatic parks). There’s a number of restaurants, events, and shops that make up Sea World, but the main feature is the grounded ship in the middle. Every night around 7:00pm and 8:00pm, there’s a water and light show in front of the boat.

Minghua ship at Sea World, Shenzhen

However, as in any big city, there is much more to see. It just so happened that due to a work-sponsored scavenger hunt, I had the opportunity to run around part of Shenzhen all in one day and I happened to have brought my camera along. If you’re interested in seeing more artsy photos, check out our Flickr page.

City Hall in Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen as a modern city is only about 35 years old and as such has the benefits of a new city: excellent public transportation, modern architecture, and a diverse populous. One of the first stops on the scavenger hunt was at Shenzhen’s City Hall (pictured above). Compared to most cities I’ve been to, Shenzhen has a very modern and colorful City Hall. In the background are tons of new skyscrapers under construction. It’s just another sign that this is a growing city.

Building in Shenzhen, China

City Hall is located in the middle of the city, in a district named Futian (福田区). Much like a big city like New York or Chicago, Shenzhen is split into districts and sub-districts. For example, Shekou sits within another district, Nanshan (南山区). There are others, including an important one: Luo Hu (罗湖). It’s one of the border crossings from China into Hong Kong and also has a large “Commercial City” (罗湖商业城) where you can find just about anything you’re looking for.

LuoHu Commercial City

As part of our scavenger hunt, we stopped at another sub-district in Luohu, named Dongmen (东门). It’s a huge area that is another old shopping street, leading to the nickname, Laojie (老街), or “Old Street”.

Dongmen Street

Dongmen is an interesting place because there’s a mix of old and new; as you make your way through the winding side streets, you’ll find things like a Starbucks and Pizza Hut next to some old dumpling shop. Of course, the architecture at Dongmen is definitely older than most of the rest of Shenzhen and that leads to a chaotic skyline.

Shenzhen as a city is still in its relative infancy. As such, it doesn’t strike me as a place that has enough indigenous culture unique to the area. Instead, it brings together the people that make up the city and makes its culture a unique blend of those of its inhabitants. At the same time, it has been an honor to be here at a time when Shenzhen is just learning to walk on its own and starting to figure out what it is as a modern city in China.

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