Some Westerners may be familiar with SHENZHEN as the global centre of iPod production, but the city’s role in determining China’s technology boom ensures that it’s well known to all its countrymen: it was in this one-time fishing village that China’s modern “economic miracle” was born. Today, the city’s gleaming skyscrapers – and ongoing construction – are testament to a continued success, as is the daily flow of thousands of commuters across the border, not just from Shenzhen to Hong Kong, but increasingly in the opposite direction. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s much of interest to the casual visitor: the much-vaunted shopping is in decline, though a decent eating scene remains alongside a downright border-town seediness in areas – an atmosphere compounded by pushy touts, beggars and pickpockets.
With the growing strength of the yuan – not to mention the internet – Shenzhen isn’t the shopper’s paradise it used to be, and most things are cheaper in Hong Kong or almost anywhere else in China. Even so, with a bit of haggling, you can get some reasonable prices, though remember conterfeit goods are rife in this city.
The Luo Hu Commercial City (罗湖商业城, lúohú shāngyè chéng), immediately to your right as you clear customs on the border, is a chaotic trove of big-brand knock-offs hawking bags, watches, clothes, DVDs and all manner of electronics of questionable lineage. By contrast, the International Trade Centre (国际贸易中心, guójìmàoyì zhōngxīn), a superior three-storey mall on the corner of Jiabin Lu, is a civilized affair populated with shoppers browsing upmarket jewellery and perfume.