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Archive for the 'Shenzhen City' Category

Every which way but lose

On Sunday we were travelling along one of Shenzhen’s major arterial roads on the bus. All of a sudden, the traffic just stopped and we were knee-deep in cars pointing in practically every direction on the compass.

SZ Freeway jam

It seemed that there’d been a jam of some sorts up ahead and, rather than wait, most motorists were doing U-turns or reversing back along the free way to the nearest on ramp, trying to get onto the access road. From where we were, we couldn’t see what caused the chaos, but the actions of all the drivers were certainly contributing nicely. Strangely, the outer-most lane was flowing, albeit slowly.

It was a bit of an obscure feeling to be in a bus on a free way with a car pointing in the opposite direction alongside you, whilst your bus driver is reversing it over the median strip with the ticket lady calling out how close he is to the other cars around him.

An old flame

Shenzhen has slowly been changing over to natural gas for it’s mains gas network. The most interesting bit? It’s Australian natural gas that’s being used to power Shenzhen. So, each time we light the stove we’re lighting up a small piece of home.

A consequence of the change to natural gas has been the need to change the stove and hot water service, the old ones not being compatible with LNG. There were many to chose from but fortunately we were advised which ones were a rip-off and which ones were rubbish.

old stove New stove

I thought having an adjustable temperature instant gas hot water service would be a good thing, and it’s good in the sense that there’s no pilot light to blow out or waste gas. The problem is that it takes about 8 seconds whilst the little fan spins up and the electric lighter kicks the gas in to gear and gets the flame burning. It takes another second or two for the hot water service to work out that it needs to crank up the flame. That’s a lot of cold water down the drain. It also flushes about 10 seconds of cold water into the hot water pipe each time the hot water is used, e.g. when rinsing dishes.

 old hot water service new hot water service

As part of having the new gas hot water service it needed a permanent power connection. How did they do this? Rather than run the wiring from a permanent power point they chose to piggy-back onto the wiring to the exhaust fan, which was closer. The idea probably sounded like a good safety principle to them - it required the exhaust fan on when the gas was burning, or it’s what they were told to do, but having to do so was a right royal pain. It meant that having a shower required a preliminary trip to the kitchen. Additionally, the set temperature was lost each time the fan was turned off.

Exhaust fan wiring

I’m sure people just don’t think this sort of stuff through. In the end I just plugged the power for the hot water service into a power board I had behind the microwave. Nice and simple.


Amigos Restaurant

I was recently introduced to this great little Mexican restaurant in the Luo Hu district of Shenzhen, about a 10 minute walk from the office. It's one of a small but increasing number of restaurants opening up in Shenzhen that can serve food that doesn't have strong Chinese influences in the taste.

This fine establishment serves, of all things, what they call a 'Mexican steak or chicken sandwich'. It's a tasty feast that isn't completely dissimilar to a steak sandwich back home. The menu is full of other tasty goodies for those willing to explore them. If you order a sandwich during lunchtime a soup is included for free and it's made with real potatoes or real mushrooms!

Amigos is located on the ground floor of the Carriana Friendship Center (a shopping centre), Renmin South Road, LuoHu district.

Da Fen Art Village

Large Paintbrush

Saturday afternoon saw Gail & I heading out to the famous DaFen Oil Painting Village in Shenzhen. We'd heard about it a few times and decided to try and find it. After a bit of on-line research we learned that it was near BuJi town centre in the Longgang district. I'd taken a number 300 bus near there some months ago (not the 300A or the 300B) so we decided that we'd take the same again and then try and get a taxi driver to get us to the right spot. As it turned out, after about 45 minutes the bus went right past the village and Gail's keen eyes spotted it.

DaFen is a place where you can find rows and rows of small shops all selling copies of famous oil paintings. DaFen is the world's largest oil painting village where about 8,000 people make their living by painting duplicates of famous paintings, turning photographs into paintings or producing original works. We wandered past and into a few score shop fronts but didn't see many actual painters, which was a little disappointing. 

DaFen lies just outside the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in the Longgang district to the north of Luo Hu. A Hong Kong artist called Huang Jiang, started it all when he moved to DaFen in 1989 with a plan to use the low cost labour of China to produce art duplicates for export. Others cottoned onto his success and now there are more than 600 galleries and associated workshops and factories in and around the village. Collectively they churn out 5 million oil paintings a year worth 500 million yuan.

Roadside Factory building

As we strolled up and down small streets lined with rows and rows of shops the thing that impressed the most was the accuracy of the paintings. The standard of craftsmanship was amazingly good, be it a Van Gough, Rembrant (or for Gail, Waterhouse) or anyone else you care to think of. The other thing that really stood out was the size, as the paintings were generally very large. When we see prints of famous paintings, they are usually on a much smaller scale.  

We ambled past and through hundreds of shops but remained empty handed, although the beauty and quality of many of the paintings was inspiring. With so many different pieces of art on display I started to go into visual overload after about an hour and a half. After a drink and a rest we continued on our visual extravaganza.

No talking to the bus driver

After a loo stop (costing us 1 yuan each) we took the bus back to town. Above the bus driver was this sign, indicating to passengers that they should not talk to the driver. The drivers seem to take it as a licence to not talk to the passengers either as, whilst stuck in a traffic jam, our driver completely ignored the petition of a passenger to be let down where the bus stood. 

What we did come away with was the thought that a few hours in an afternoon is insufficient to fully appreciate what happens in the village. It's a mini-world unto itself and we'd both like to go back and spend a bit more time there. 

Ring my number

Phone numbers

On the side wall of The Defiled Watercourse there is usually a list of telephone numbers. Every once in a while they get painted over and, over a period of time, they slowly grow again. 

This is not the only place that this occurs in Shenzhen. People write telephone numbers on the footpath, on bus stops, on the walls of buildings, on the walls of construction sites and many other places.

I was in a bit of a quandary as to what all these telephone numbers could mean. Surely they didn't think that anyone would be daft enough to actually call one of them?

I quizzed a local on the subject. He said that these telephone numbers are for people who will make fake official documentation. Dial up one of these people and, for a fee, you can have a fake drives licence made, a fake city ID, fake University degrees and fake just about anything else.

It looks like it's quite a booming industry. 

Kidnapping in Shenzhen

This story came through a friend of a friend at another company… you get the idea. It's about a Hong Kong businessman's lucky escape in Shenzhen. Scary stuff.

What happened to me on Friday 3rd September 2004…

2:00p.m.I had a presentation in Futian Shenzhen for a potential new project, I was with David, after the meeting we were on a taxi back to the train station, I suggested I pass by to see Mr. Cheung our client and collect some old debts that he promised to pay at least 3 months ago.

4:15p.m.I was dropped off the taxi to meet Mr. Cheung, I spoke to him about the money owing to us and he said he would talk to me next week, we took the lift together to the ground floor, he then continued to the basement garage, I saw him leaving the building in a white Mercedes.

4:45p.m.I left the building on foot to the railway station which was about 20 minutes walk, I have done this route before at least dozen of times, along the road to the station, there are lots of starry eyes and people approaching me asking for something or offering something to sell, however I always manage to ignore them and walk as quickly as possible to my destination, only this time I felt sorry for a little boy 12-13 years old selling VCDs, I wanted to help him by buying some VCDs, he has followed me for about a street long.

5:00p.m.on Peace Boulevard, Shenzhen, not far from Shangri-La Hotel, I turned a street corner with this innocent boy, which turned out he was far from being innocent, he is part of a syndicate for kidnapping, I was grabbed by 3 strong guys all dressed in black in broad day light in to a white van, naturally I resisted, I was beaten with a wooden stick on the head and on my arms, it happened so fast that I did not really remember how many more punches I have taken, kicked on the knees and finally I was driven away in the van, my face was on the floor, I was tied up very tight with sticky tapes, because I have resisted being taken away, they tied me up so tight, both my hands were swollen due to lack of  blood circulation, then I was taken to an apartment I noticed the floor was still under construction, the apartment was bare, only a bench was there, I was quickly taken to a room, I think that was the only room in the apartment, the 3 gangsters in black then tied my feet up tight with sticky tapes, took everything out of my pockets, naturally they found my credit cards, bank cards and starting to ask me for the PIN numbers, this time I did not resist because I risk to be beaten up more seriously than my current state, I can barely open my left eye and my left temple was seriously swollen, even I told them the real PIN number they continue to beat me on the chest and kicked me real hard on the left side hip which broke 2 of my rib bones, I was in great pain but they did not stop, I did not know what was the problem, a fourth gangster arrived with all my cards in his hand and go through in detail the cards and their PIN numbers, one of which was my wife’s and I did not know her PIN number, one of the gangster took a syringe filled with clear liquid he claimed it was filled with cocaine and put the needle to my skin, I finally told him to shoot the syringe because I did not know the PIN number, he then realize that I was not bluffing, in the mean time they must have started to withdraw money from my accounts, because suddenly everything was quiet.  All the gangsters spoke only Mandarin without a word in Cantonese.

The window in the room was sealed, it was impossible to tell the time, they told me after they take my money they will let me go, but as they discovered I had large amount of cash in my account they decided not to let me go or may be kill me. Accident can happen…in the mean time I try to put myself together and think clearly deciding what I should do since there was no way anyone can find me here, I am the only one who can help myself.

In 3 days, I ate nothing and drank very little, I was being careful checking the plastic water bottle to see if it was drugged by feeling with my fingers to see if it was punctured and the cap was sealed, the food was obviously drugged, I need to be conscious and be able to escape if I had a chance. Saturday was very long, actually every second was very long, with my hand tied very tight for 3 days my muscle begin to ache and feel extremely uncomfortable almost drove me crazy, all the time I was kidnapped the 3 men in black never left me, when I lied on the floor, two of them would lie next to me and the third one facing me, so forced escape was not an option, even if I managed to escape I would not know where I am or which direction to run. It was amazing how thoughts quickly go through my mind, I was desperate to save my own life, which was in great danger, and I was a hostage. All that time I was thinking of my wife, what would she be doing to find me.  Make police report… sending rescue team…

Saturday possibly late in the evening I need to start an escape plan because I know no one would come to rescue, I started to pretend I was struggling for oxygen and having difficulty in breathing, making that awful inhaling noise which I watched my dad before he died due to lungs damaged from smoking cigarettes, I was persistent throughout the night possibly for 12 hours non-stop I pretended to faint with painful expressions every 3 to 4 minutes, finally on Sunday, the mafia boss came to see me, one of the gangster turned sympathetic and spoke to me just before the mafia boss arrive and warned me not to drink or take pain killer pills from the mafia boss, good enough he offered me water to drink and pills for pains, I refused to take and told him I would die if I did not leave the room soon and take my medicine, after a very long while possibly 2-3 hours he decided to let me go, he gave me 10 RMB for taxi and took 260 HK$ from my wallet. Soon, one of the gangster grabbed me and took me to the street, as I stepped out of the building, I saw my tears falling like rain dropping on the pavement, crowded people in the street were doing their business as nothing has happened, I walked straight and turned the corner flagged the first taxi I saw and went straight to the train station, the time was Sunday 1p.m. I went through Chinese and Hong Kong Immigration with my left eye hugely swollen and black, my hands badly swollen, my face and neck cut and bruised none of the immigration officers from both sides of the border asked if I needed help. I also had a fever.

My first stop in LoWu Station was the police station and I called my wife to let her know that I was back in Hong Kong alive, she was in Shenzhen with a group of friends including David filing a missing person report in the Chinese police station, their experience with the local police were absolutely hopeless, they were not interested to help, the same goes for the Hong Kong police not much they can do until someone died. What police attitudes, my wife also called the Canadian Embassy for help and they responded 4 days later. All this time my wife was suffering equally, desperately seeking help from every possible means, in her mind without doubts I was kidnapped but none of the police would believe her, feeling extremely helpless, she spent 2 sleepless nights very stressful and frustrating experience that was.

I have spent 5 days in 2 hospitals luckily I am alive. The gangsters managed to get away with low 6 digits cash amount from my cards… did you know that you can transfer up to 50,000$ per day to the Hong Kong Jockey Club and withdraw cash immediately?

My conclusion is these gangsters are not from Shenzhen, they are from other parts of China, so it can happen anywhere in China, if you have to go on a business trip to China, do not bring your personal credit cards, bank ATM cards, bring only your business credit card and cash. They are desperate for your money; the crime bureau in Hong Kong recorded over 30 reported similar cases per month.

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