Friday, December 19, 2008

As you all know, I'll be heading back home soon for the holidays. I've just got about three days left here in China before I head home. Soon I'll be on a flight headed for LAX. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do when the plane lands and I'm back on American soil. I might have to get down on my knees and kiss that beautiful (yet dirty) floor.


Anyway, I'll be in LA during most of that time, but I'm planning to head up to Northern California for a couple of days. It'll probably be sometime between Christmas and New Years. If the timing/scheduling works out, it be nice to see all my friends and family.

And one last note, if you want anything from China, just let me know. I've got a couple of days left where I could do some shopping for you. Keep in mind that there's a real limit to how many bootleg DVDs I smuggle into the US.  And no I will not bring pack any poisoned toothpaste/pet food or any melamime laced daily products.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last Sunday, in addition to checking out Shun Hing Square, I also went to Lychee Park in downtown Shenzhen.  The park takes its name from the beautiful groves of lychee trees.  And even though I was just there, I still have no idea what a lychee tree looks like.  (Oh, and for those of you who don't know, lychee is a sweet tropical fruit native to southern China.)

When I got to Lychee Park, I didn't know what to expect.  I couldn't find a lot of (English) information available about the place.  It's not huge Shenzhen tourist attraction by any means.  I pretty much just found it on a map and decided to check it out.  It turned out to be a park for the locals; I don't think I saw any other tourist there.

Anyway, check out this great entrance sign.  Apparently, you're not allowed to do anything even remotely entertaining at the park.  It's a good thing I didn't bring my "skid-board":


This is a picture from the palm tree grove.  As I took this photo, I thought to myself, "Man, this would be a cool place for portraits." I looked over and saw some couples having their wedding photographs taken.  It felt good to know that I've still got "it":


This is from the pond of gated lotus flowers:


Nothing really special here.  I just liked the reflection and extreme contrast between the sunlight and deep shadowy areas:


Ah yes, the "Chinese hacky sack" players.  Apparently it's called jianzi.  It's supposedly very popular in Asia, but this was the first time I'd ever seen/heard of it.  It's like playing hacky sack with a heavily weighted shuttlecock.  The shuttle cock has four large feathers fixed into a series of plastic disks.  There were some crazy overhead kicks:


I also came across this group of musical performers.  As you can see, they drew quite the crowd. They had musicians playing the keyboard and the banjo while others sang.  I'm not really sure what kind of music, but they must have been well known songs.  Everyone in the crowd already knew the words and they just joined right in:


After waiting about 20 minutes or so, I found an opening and made my way to the front.  It wasn't until that moment that realized just how tall I am here in China.  I felt really bad about it so I ended up squatting most of the time.  It was alright though because I got this picture.  Kids just make pictures better:


Then there were the dancing.  I guess you could call it Dance Dance Revolution for old folks.  They'd have a boombox playing some music and there would be a "lead dancer."  Everyone would watch the leader and just try to follow along.  The routine was pretty easy to learn because it was simple and it repeated over and over again.  This dance group was a little more elaborate with their decorative handkerchiefs.  There were some other bizarre ones blasting Chinese techno music:


Finally, as I was exiting the park, I came across this.  I'm not exactly sure how to describe it.  For nominal fee, your child could sit in a cart pulled by a "robot child."  During the ride, speakers would blast Chinese children songs.  There's a U-shaped handle that the child could rotate to steer the robot.  There was something kind of freaky about a small robot child pulling kids around:

Monday, December 15, 2008

This weekend I had a chance to check out Shun Hing Square. Commonly known as the Diwang Building, it's the tallest skyscraper in Shenzhen. The name Diwang (地王) roughly translates to "earth king." At 1,260 feet tall it ranks 9th tallest building in the world and 5th tallest in China.  (As a comparison, the current tallest building in the world Taipei 101 is 1671 feet tall.)

Having visited Taipei 101 must have spoiled me because this place felt totally lame. I'm not sure if I'd call it a let-down...maybe just plain strange is a better description. This is the description from the brochure for the Meridian View Centre (MVC) at the top:

"Standing at the MVC, which is the first high-rise theme sightseeing and entertainment scenic spot in Asia, you will be amazed by the enchanting view of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. So many things are great treated to you in MVC including a thrilling and stimulating movie, a splendid short film on Shenzhen and Hong Kong's history, a funny animal show, exciting stereoscopic film and stimulating game, a robot guide worth a million RMB, colorful shopping space, and quite and romantic cafe, and so much more."

Trust me, it sounds like a lot more fun that it actually was. Their English may sound a little awkward, but they sure understand marketing. Oh and that million RMB (~$200,00 USD) robot guide? It wasn't even on. Ugh.

Anyway, after arriving at the top, I walked out the elevator and came upon this display. It supposed to be Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher discussing the hand over of Hong Kong back to China. The whole Hong Kong/China relationship was a main theme:


And along the walls of the walkway were small displays describing history of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. You know: historical pictures from the past, scenes from famous events, photographs of celebrities, etc.  I guess this one is supposed to illustrate children playing back in the days? I'm still trying to dechiper the meaning of "Tall slide provides entertainment:"


So, "What do you think if don't have MRT now?" (I really don't mean to be a jerk, but all the really awkward Engrish drives me nuts.):


Remember that "exciting stereoscopic film" that the brochure mentioned? Well it was some sort of hourly pirate themed movie/experience. I didn't see the pirate show, but I can assure you that it wasn't rated ARRR. And I still don't get the relationship between pirates and skyscapers:


Obviously though, the main reason anyone comes to this place is for the view. (At least I hope no one comes for the "high-rise entertainment spot.") For 2 RMB (͌͌͌͌~$0.30 USD) you could use these telescopes to take a closer look at the city:


Unfortunately, I picked a really crappy cloudy day to visit. That explains why the whole top half of these pictures vanished into thin air: 




My original plan was to catch the sunset, but I got there too early. I really tried to hang out and wait for sunset, but I just ran out of stuff to do. Entertainment scenic spot? Yeah, right. And with the cost of admission at 60 RMB ($8.75), it's safe to say that I won't be heading back there again.

The rest of my Shenzhen pictures can be found here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

So this is what my hair looks like after 6 months without a haircut....



The real question is:

Do I let it grow out even more?  Or do I get it cut when I'm at home?