Dongmen Pedestrian Street is a shopping district consisting of department stores, supermarkets, shops and stalls. It is centred on two parallel pedestrian streets with several smaller streets and alleys traversing it, creating a labyrinth in which every available space is used to sell something. Shops range from holes-in-the-wall to retail chains like Baleno, Giordano and the odd foreign brand shop, such as Addidas. Fashion wear, sports wear, jewellery, shoes, handbags, toys, CDs, DVDs, video games, traditional medicine...the list goes on and on. Touts guide punters to massage houses, nail salons and tattoo parlours. Occasionally, monks offer palm readings. Except for retail chain stores with prices clearly displayed, bargaining will be required.
I loved Shenzhen, I thought it was a really beautiful city but it also has quite a scary side. As one of China's Special Economic Districts it is very wealthy, and therefore attracts a lot of people looking to make money based on that. The first night there we all had a bunch of drinks in our hotel bar. There was a table with some really pretty girls sitting right next to us, smoking lots of cigarettes and laughing. It turns out that they were the hotels prostitutes working out of the bar. A woman came up to us with business cards that said she was the Costumer Service Rep. Also known as the madame. Throughout the night these girls would vanish upstairs and come back while adjusting their clothes. I understand that this is relatively normal for places like this, but it made me quite sad. None of them could have been older than twenty.
The next day my father had more meetings so I decided to venture out and see the downtown on my own. This was a bit of a mistake. More on that later. I took the subway into the downtown area, which was across the city, and I immediately went into the building that sold pirated DVDs and other such things. I stoked up on cheap gifts for my friends at home and was satisfied. I decided to venture out and see what was around.
got to walking and almost immediately someone started following me. I couldn't shake them so I turned around and took a photo. They turned the other way and left. About half an hour later when the same thing happened I decided to react in the same way. This was a mistake. The guy got really angry and came right up to me and I had to run into a store and hide until he left. The downtown is also completely full of prostitutes, to the point where you can't go a block without getting bothered. This was probably made worse by the fact that I was a lone white male. Obviously a tourist. My next mishap occurred when a "monk" asked me for money for a temple. I said no. He then grabbed my arm (which was broken and in a cast) and started shaking me. A policeman quickly came up and took him away. Again, I felt badly but I was quite shaken up. I ended up going to a Starbucks to calm down and a british man asked me why I was alone downtown and informed me it was very dangerous and that I should go back to my hotel immediately. He then offered me a ride. I took the subway.
Between all this crazy drama I got to see a really unique city. It was built twenty years ago when China decided to build it as an experiment in economics. Needless to say, it was successful and the place is thriving. It reminded me of a very Chinese Hong Kong. Tall shimmering buildings and tons of people. It was much more grimey but it was still very charming. It was however, the first time I had ever felt threatened while traveling.