Is that the long, loud, guttural sound of someone hacking up a giant wad of phlegm? I must have crossed the border into China!
After receiving countless short-term China visas, I was delighted to secure the real prize: a 10-year, multi-entry China visa. Because only Americans and Canadians are eligible for this rare treasure, I felt especially smug.
With my new visa I can now travel to mainland China whenever I feel like it. As the border is roughly 10 kilometers from my house in Tai Po, Hong Kong (or about a third of the distance to the bright lights of Central, Hong Kong), the mega-city of Shenzhen has suddenly opened like an oyster.
The first thing I did to celebrate my new visa was to take a trip to what I historically considered to be one of the worst spots in mainland China: the Lo Wu Commercial Centre (known as Luo Hu on the northern side of the border). Despite hating it the last several times I visited, I was a complete love-sick tourist this time around. I ate cheap Chinese food in a big, noisy dining room decorated with pink curtains and crystal chandeliers. I inhaled the smell of second-hand cigarette smoke mixed with car exhaust and industrial pollution. I brought my own tissues to the washroom, squatted to pee and finally mastered ‘splash-back’ avoidance.
I was euphoric!
Those who don’t have a soft spot for mainland China might be more interested in the more obvious plus points of a trip to Lo Wu, where you can buy a ‘copy’ version of anything, have clothes tailored or simply gawk at the fake jewel-encrusted dresses, evening bags and iPhone covers on sale. Students of Mandarin will enjoy practicing their Chinese while filling their bellies with duck, dumplings and jasmine tea. And everyone will marvel at the ingenuousness bargaining and stocking methods of the shopkeepers.
It is a great day out.
In a city of seven million people there must be many other things worth seeing. Shenzhen experts: what should I do next time?