The logistics of taking the train from Hong Kong to the mainland China border (adjacent to the city of Shenzhen) could not have been easier. We passed through immigration almost too quickly, and stepped out of the administrative building to a massive city with practically no signs in English.
The Lonely Planet does a poor job of listing accommodations here. We started to walk north along a main thoroughfare, scouting for cheap hotels. The first one we checked out had a squat toilet, which Adam immediately rejected. I was tired, and my pack was weighing heavy, so I would’ve been fine to stop there (knowing I’d only be in town for 2 nights). Instead, we ambled onward toward the second of three budget listings in the guide.
Before we could find the Lonely Planet suggestion, we came across an international hotel with doubles for about $32/night. After verifying the room had a western toilet, and was quite a bit bigger and nicer than the last spot (at $22/night), we booked it for two nights. Once I hopped into a hot shower for a good 15 minutes, I was glad Adam had higher bathroom standards than me. It had been weeks since I could simply stand under a steaming hot shower for as long as I wanted (and be comfortable about it).
After cleaning up, I successfully managed a Skype call from my first Chinese internet bar. On the other end was Michelle, the wife of David, an American English teacher who was the son of my mom’s friend back in Virginia. I’ve learned the value of local contacts, so he was the sole reason I went to Shenzhen for a few nights.
We met in the lobby of my hotel, and walked around until we found a Hunan-style restaurant. While the menu had photos, I left the ordering up to David and Michelle. The food that arrived did not resemble in any way the Chinese food I was accustomed to eating at home. It was all far better! In fact, I was already thinking about the need to put in some effort to find authentic Chinese food when I go back to the USA. Sweet and sour chicken suddenly sounded like an abomination!
We made plans for me to meet up with Michelle the next day for some sightseeing. The rough itinerary would include a park, food market, and Walmart.