There are a lot more fun activities and things to do on the weekend in Shenzhen than going to Happy Valley, Dameisha beach, or shopping in Dong Men. It seems like around every corner, there is something fun and exciting that has been left undiscovered by the average ex-patriot living in Shenzhen. So here are a few things you can do on the weekend other than wandering aimlessly through the crowded city streets.
Rent A Bicycle In Yantian District
In Yantian district, the least populated district in Shenzhen, you can rent bicycles and use them for however long you want as long as you get the proper authentication on your ShenzhenTong card at designated stations in Yantian and some metro stations. It usually costs around 200 kuai for the service if you are a resident of Yantian district, and 500 kuai if you are foreign or live in a different district. Don’t let those big numbers scare you, however. They are simply deposits for the service and use of the card – you need to maintain a 20 kuai balance on your card to have ongoing use of the bikes. And you should!
Yantian is a beautiful district. Because it is the least populated of the districts, there are many places you can ride a bicycle with ease (read as without the fear of getting smoked by a car). You can bike all the way to Xiaomeisha or simply ride along the boardwalk and enjoy the scenery pictured above! It’s a great way to take in some of the local Shenzhen culture on a smaller scale, because let’s be honest, once you get into Yantian it is almost as if it is a different city all together.
Climb Wutong Mountain
Shenzhen is rich in mountains – after all, before it was the sprawling metropolis that it is now, it used to be a small fishing village located betwixt these mountains. The fishing village turned into a huge city scape, but the mountains surrounding it remained. Which is why at pretty much any point where the road meets any mountain, you can follow steps to the top. Climbing mountains seems to be an activity enjoyed by the native population and tourists alike.
The most famous mountain in Shenzhen is Wutong Shan. It’s peaks run from the Luohu border into Yantian district and it is part of the Longhua mountain range. It stands out among the others not only becasue it is the tallest peak, but because of the needle shaped television network building that sits atop it, making it imposssible to miss.
Go To A Park (Any Park!)
Finding a park in Shenzhen is hardly difficult. It seems like every corner you turn around, there is a park to be found. The one pictured above is right near the Childrens Palace metro station in Futian, but the parks are not just in Futian. They are everywhere. They are hidden in between the high rise buildings located in almost every inch of the city.
It doesn’t matter which park you go to, someone, somewhere, will be selling kites. Or bubbles. Or something that you can play with at a park with your chidren and friends alike. At some parks you can even rent paddle boats! The parks of Shenzhen are truly amazing – hidden around every corner and just waiting for you to play frisbee in them. Oh, and of course, eat copious amounts of fruit and drink Tsingdao.
DaFen Oil Painting Village
Da Fen Oil Painting Village is… complicated. Located in Longgang district, Da Fen is a large labyrinth of oil painting shops, tea houses, art galleries, and restaurants. Most of the art found in Da Fen is, to put it gently, plagarized. Most artists (and they are artists – trust me, watch them do this copy painting for just a second and you will see how talented they are), print out a copy of whatever piece they would like to paint. Let’s say it is the Mona Lisa. Some artists simply paint over top of an outline, and others look at the picture and copy it in that way.
Whether you agree with the ethics or not, Da Fen is certainly a must experience if you are living in or visiting Shenzhen. The artists do not mind if you watch them paint, and the art you can buy is cheap – I myself have four paintings on my wall right now that I bought for probably the sum total of ten dollars. But there is original art too! You will have to pay extra for it, but the originality is certainly worth the extra money (I have two original pieces as well)! There is also a restaurant in Da Fen that has the best friend wontons with peanut sauce I have ever had. So even if you don’t like art you should go.
I have talked about the Shenzhen Zoo before, but I must reiterate how awesome this place is. If you are looking to experience something truly mind blowing, go to a zoo in China. In this zoo, instead of feeding an animal in a cage, they put YOU in the cage, and you ride around in said cage while Tigers, Lions, and Ligers (yes, they exist) come up to the caged in vehicle and take the meat from you! I could not make this stuff up.
Here’s a really terrible (and sweaty – it was hot that day) picture of me holding a baby Tiger. That’s right. A baby Tiger. Some people have misconstrued my face as being afraid. But in fact it was quite the opposite. I am actually overwhelmed with joy.
OCT Loft is almost like a little bit of Paris in the middle of Shenzhen. It’s quiet pedestrian catered streets are layered with trees, plant overhang, and outoor patios. Not only is it a great place to go and enjoy professionally prepped western influenced food, but it’s nights boast live music of a wide variety. You can sit in and listen to some traditional Mongolian throat singing at the Jazz Bar, or you can go to the Gold Heaven book shop and listen to some indie instrumental music. If you really want to tap into your inner student, OCT Loft in Western Futian/Nanshan border is the place to be.
OCT East Amusement Park
Located all the way out in DaMeiSha, this hidden gem is certainly worth trekking out to Yantian district to take a look-see. An amusement park that boasts roller coasters, an aquarium, rides, parks (of course), and a stunt show that runs numerous times throughout the day, OCT East is wild. It is family friendly, but also a great place to spend the day with your friends. The entrance fee is around 150-200 kuai for the whole day. There are also restaurants inside of the park for snacking and there is a bus stop conveniently located outside of the entrance of the park.
And these are only a few of the other fantastic things that you can do in Shenzhen if you simply take a look around. So until next time, 干杯！
Jen Murray is a writer, historian, and traveler who lived in Shenzhen. For more information please go to www.facebook.com/TheGlassEyeProject or follow her on twitter at @JenMurray41