trains, boats and motorbikes

~~ Happy 1 month blog-aversary, Shenzhen Koala! ~~

Today Shenzhen Koala finally visited the south-west of Shenzhen – Chiwan, Shekou Port and Sea World!

I had planned to visit during Spring Festival but never got around to it, and since then, the days when I had thought it might be nice to go there on a day trip ended up being quite gloomy days weather-wise.

Today was sunny so I got dressed, threw my book into my shoulder bag, and headed to the subway. When I got there, I realised I had left my Shenzhen Tong metro card in the pocket of my work trousers! I luckily had a few yuan in my bag so I bought myself a trip to Shekou Port. If you buy a trip without a Shenzhen Tong card, you will receive a jeton or a chip from the ticket machine which you scan as you go through the boom gates. This little jeton totally confused me on my very first day in Shenzhen as I had no idea what it was or what I was supposed to do with it! (A nightmare when you are carrying two enormously large and heavy suitcases)

So, I hopped on the train and headed to Shekou Port, reading a good many pages of Madame Bovary on the way. I had expected Shekou Port would be a beautiful area with sea views, nice walkways and shops. When I left the subway station, it was very bare. There were a few construction sites, bus bays and the old Shekou ferry terminal. I opened my phone to see if I could find a department store nearby, or something of interest to do there. Nothing. In fact, my phone refused to connect as I had run out of phone credit (or something like that – I don’t really understand how my China Mobile account works).

So, I had no more money, no internet and no Shenzhen Tong. I wandered around Shekou Port hoping that I might find a cafe which might have wifi. That way, I could access the internet, pay for more phone credit, and be back in business. No dice.

Just before I had given up hope, I remembered I had seen an ATM at either end of the subway station. I was able to withdraw 100 yuan!

I had done a little research on the net a few months ago to see what was worth doing in this part of Shenzhen. Chiwan Temple looked really interesting, so I bought myself a trip to Chiwan for 2 yuan. I left the subway station and found myself surrounded by more construction sites. I walked on a little, passing and trying to ignore all of the men on motorbikes who were yelling out to me and offering me a lift. I am not a fan of motorbikes – otherwise I might have taken one of them up on their offer.

Looking at the map, it seemed like it would be easy to find the temple, but there were hills and busy roads on either side, as well as the motorbike men scattered all over the place. I didn’t feel like trekking up a hill and walking on the side of the busy roads, and there wasn’t a taxi to be seen, so I headed back into the subway station and bought a trip to Sea World. A rather wasted journey, but I will go back sometime when I have more patience. I want to see the temple!


Sea World was quite pretty when I exited from the subway station. Although the sunny day that had initially tempted me to go venturing around Shenzhen had been replaced by grey, cloudy skies, I continued on and wandered around, checking out all of the little cafes, restaurants and bars there were on offer.

I found a nice area where I could walk along a path along side the water and overlook fishermen as they waited for a catch. The sun was setting and colouring the atmosphere with a pleasant, orange glow. Ladies were sitting on the grass watching their poodles bounce joyfully from left and right with their doggy friends. A man played the erhu in the distance, flavouring the atmosphere further with a touch of nostalgia.

I sat for a moment and watched the people pass by, and waited for the sun to set. Then I walked back towards the dancing lights of the bar and restaurant district, taking a few photos as I went.

After an hour or so, I decided to head back, but felt like I should explore Shenzhen a little more. I looked at my metro app on my phone and saw that I could make a transfer at Window to the World rather than Antuo Hill. I knew that there was a theme park there, but that’s about all I knew. I imagined there would be a lot of shops and decided I would go and have a look.

There were many exits – Exit A to K or so. Shenzhen subway stations have signs indicating what you can access as you leave by a particular exit, so after having a look at the options, I decided to head toward Exit J which would take me to the Pyramid! I didn’t know quite what to expect, but it sounded exciting.


I travelled up the escalator and found that I was emerging from the subway through what looked like the Louvre Pyramid, all lit up in blue! I exited the station and was welcomed by lights, colours and an amazing plaza with a view of the Window to the World theme park entrance as well as the Eiffel Tower! I took a few photos and walked along the road, past a group of european-style buildings that were also lit up. I found a strange little area where there were restaurants and bars – a very nice outdoor jazz bar which I will have to visit in the future. It was almost as though I was walking around Strasbourg in the Alsace.

So, overall, I had a great day exploring Shenzhen! I wish I had visited those places earlier and can’t wait to go back!


rice balls and salty coffee

Although a little delayed, I finally got to try 汤圆 or 元宵 (yuanxiao or tangyuan) which is eaten to celebrate 元宵节 or Lantern Festival. They are delicious, glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame paste, and sometimes other fillings.

As I missed out on buying fresh yuanxiao on Lantern Festival, one of my colleagues took me to the supermarket to buy a pack. I thought they were a little expensive at first – 28元 for a packet of like 20 or 25 – however, after trying them, I have a feeling they will last me quite a while!

I love black sesame and go just a little bit crazy for it until – after having gorged myself on it – I realise just how incredibly rich it is. So rich that I think I will have to leave the rest in my freezer for another time. That night, I had decided to cook eight and ended up forcing the last few down. I think four would have been more than sufficient.

My week at work passed quite quickly compared to the week before which seemed to drag – probably mostly due to a dreadful sore throat which made it hard to speak in class. This week, I felt much better. My classes ran more smoothly, despite the bizarre lesson plans I had to work with.

Most evenings after work, I ended up eating something simple at home. I have been making congee quite a lot, as it is cheap, tasty, filling and fairly healthy. I’m trying my best to save money this month. My next payday falls on a Sunday and I am still not quite sure whether my company will pay me in advance or on the Monday. If they end up processing the payment on the Monday, I will be unable to pay my rent on time.

If I could go back in time, I would have saved up much more money prior to my departure for China. Set up costs have been much more than I had expected and unfortunately this has somewhat tainted my first few months in China. For my apartment, I had to pay one month rent plus three months deposit.

I really don’t know how I survived in January. I had hoped that this month would have been a little more financially sound compared to January, but the housing allowance I received in February was not as much as what was written in my contract. Perhaps this is because it was my first month and next month will be the correct amount. Yes. I hope that is how it will be. Then, I will be able to relax and breathe a little easier!

Despite my attempts to save, it is hard. I had breakfast today with a new friend I had made a few weeks back, and ended up spending a rather hefty sum on a very nice but small serving of muesli and yoghurt.


I also ordered a coffee which was one of the more unusual coffees I have ever consumed. The coffee itself was nice and, to my surprise, quite strong.  Sitting on top of the coffee was a thick layer of creamy milk foam, the same as the milk foam that comes with a milk tea from Gong Cha, except that this milk foam was prepared with a generous sprinkle of sea salt.

If I had the chance, I would be able to eat the milk foam from Gong Cha by the bucket-load, but this milk foam was too salty. I stirred it in to my coffee and ended up with a most peculiar cup of salty coffee. I somehow don’t think I will be ordering it again in the future.