You are koo-koo bananas if you live in Hong Kong and never make it to Shenzhen.
What is Shenzhen? A city in southern China where all the global factories are located and where enterprising locals make money by selling knock-off everything! Go to Shenzhen for bootleg DVDs, knock-off designer handbags and clothing made. You also get some cheap-as-chips spa treatments. Here's my ideal Shenzhen trip:
- If you're a country like the States who China doesn't like, you'll need a Chinese visa. If you're Dutch, no visa required.
- Book a Saturday night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
- If you want to know where you're going, buy a little red book at Dymocks that's basically the Cliff's Notes for Shenzhen. The title is escaping me...
- Grab the train from HK in the morning on Saturday. Bring a an overnight change of clothes, plenty of renminbi (Shenzhen is CASH ONLY), any clothing you're having copied, a list of all the TV series and current movies you've been wanting to see and a trolley or large backpack (to haul everything back home). Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and bring an oxygen tank. I kid, but do give your lungs a pep talk on how miserable they will be for the next 24 hours.
- Get off the train and head straight to Lo Wu. (You can't miss it!) Go directly to your tailor on the 5th floor as this will take the most time. Have all your clothes made - show them the piece you've brought, get measured, etc. They'll take you to the fabric section to choose your fabrics. They'll ship everything to you 5 days later.
- Next head to Betty and ask for the good DVDs. She will direct you to another stall where you'll sit in front of a laptop operated by a Chinese guy. He will flip through movie and TV series posters; you say "yes" for the ones you want. He then crawls up into the ceiling (I kid you not) and comes back with everything you ordered.
- It's a no-brainer, but I feel compelled to come right out and say it - Skip the dental implants and cosmetic surgery places.
- Head to Ling Ling for purses. Tell her you want to see the good stuff in the warehouse and follow one of the shopkeepers as she takes you outside of Lo Wu, across a busy street and up into a semi-frightening building. She'll open the doors to a flat filled with designer handbags and wallets. PURE HEAVEN.
- Grab your purses, head back to the Grand Hyatt, shower away all the Lo Wu grime and get a bite to eat. Fall into bed after all your hard work!
- Get up the next morning, grab breakfast and head to Queen Spa. It's a 5-story building that's dedicated just to spa treatments. It's part cruise ship/part Vegas, but so worth it. Don't freak out when you and your spouse get separated. They do this so that you can get undressed and showered in the women's changing room. You'll meet again on the 3rd floor. I recommend getting a 75-minute full-body massage in a private room. Then meet up with your spouse in a common room where you'll settle into an enormous Lazy Boy-like chair, equipped with a mini TV. Spend the next 5 hours, watching TV, ordering food and getting various spa treatments - head massage, pedi, hand massage, etc.
- Get dressed, say a teary goodbye to Queen Spa and head back to the tailor at Lo Wu for a second fitting. If you're getting suits made from scratch, INSIST on a second fitting.
- After your fitting, grab the train back to HK.
A week later, your beautiful new clothes will arrive looking like this:
Don't be alarmed! It's not a dead body. Grab some scissors and carefully open the "package". Consider wearing a face mask because all of the lovely lung-destroying cigarette smoke from Lo Wu will come rushing out. Pull out your clothes and hang each item in front of a window to air out (you can also dry-clean, but that ruins clothes quickly) and iron when the smell is gone. Voila! You have an entire new wardrobe!
You MUST MUST MUST go to Shenzhen at least once in your life. And this is coming from someone who hates crowds, dirt, smoke and general chaos.