Sunday, February 01, 2009
Since I'm a giant nerd, I am excessively amused by the point in Google maps where Hong Kong becomes Shenzhen (深圳). Though it sits conveniently at the end of one of Hong Kong's MTR lines, it's a bit of an inconvenience to go there since you need to get a visa if you're not a Hong Kong resident, and a "Return to Homeland Card" (回鄉證) if you are. Thus, before this trip I had only been to Shenzhen once in my life, and even then we just went to the gigantic mall that's right outside the train station.
I'm not even sure whether we would have gone to Shenzhen this time around had my dad not won two free massages at a fancy spa hotel from a draw at the grand opening of my aunt's new office. (Yes, the same aunt who owns the property in Macau.) So unlike other parts of our trip where our goal was to see as many things as we could in a day, our two-day sojourn in Shenzhen was much more relaxing.
After dropping our stuff off at the swanky hotel (which would've been more swanky if they didn't blast hip hop/r&b in the hallways and elevators), we immediately made our way to the spa. Us ladies (my mom, sister, my brother's girlfriend and myself) showered and also chilled (ha!) in the steam room in the ladies' change room before heading to the main lounge, where everyone gets their own La-Z-Boy with a personal TV and unlimited fruit, ice cream, and wonton noodles. After discussing with the salesladies, it was decided that my mom and sister would get the free massages, my brother's girlfriend and I would get two paid full-body massages, and my brother and dad would hang out in the lounge and get foot massages while gorging on fruit.
My shoulder blades have never been subject to so much pain.
Continuing with our unadventurous theme, we had supper at the hotel restaurant (we had coupons for that too.) Here is my dad with their ridiculously large menu.
The meal was good, but nothing extraordinary - if I remember correctly we had fried fish, a sweet/sour/spicy beef dish, and fried mantou (buns) dipped in sweetened condensed milk, among other things.
We closed our meal with complimentary plates of fruit, served with an impossibly small fork.
The next morning, us kids went back down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast (we had meal tickets) while my parents hit up the spa again. We were worried that it was going to be crappy, but it was a good mix of Chinese and Western food, and they even made congee on the spot! (And by "made" I mean, they had a big pot that they would reheat and throw the toppings you want on it.) I wasn't in the mood, and my siblings weren't confident on their Putonghua skills, so no one had any. Completely forgetting about the melamine incident, we ate yogurt, but fortunately none of us seem to have developed any kidney stones.
We met up with my aunt at the mall next to the train station I was telling you about - Luohu Commercial City (羅湖商業城), a six-story mall that sells all sorts of stuff from clothes to books to electronics, with a few hairdressers, manicurists, blind masseuses, and restaurants thrown in for good measure. Almost all the shopkeepers sat on a stool outside their respective shops, and since my brother's girlfriend is Caucasian, all of them would say something along the lines of "Hi Missy, watches, handbags, come looking," as we passed.
I was glad we met up with our aunt for this trip as she impressed the entire family with her haggling skills. After covering a few floors, we decided to rest for a while at Taste (formerly known as BBC), which is also where we went for lunch.
We walked around a little more before it was time for dinner. My aunt and uncle had made reservations at Fei Yang Wang (肥羊王), which is supposedly the predecessor to the popular Little Sheep（小肥羊）hot pot franchise. The cab driver had no idea where it was, and tried to convince us to go to Little Sheep as he swerved through Shenzhen traffic. We insisted that we had reservations, so he dropped us off at the corner of the street that we told him Fei Yang Wang was on, and were left to find our own way.
Instead of serving us regular tea like most restaurants, at each table setting there was a fancy teacup with a cover and inside were the ingredients for Eight Treasures Tea (八寶茶) The waitress came around with a teapot in a long spout to serve each of us. The tea was sweet, but not as sweet as that large clump of sugar (at least that's what I think it is) would imply.
The restaurant was a good recommendation on my aunt's and uncle's part, because the hot pot was delicious. While my favourite part about hot pot restaurants is normally mixing the dipping sauce, there was no need for a dipping sauce here because the broth was just so flavourful. Our pot was split in half with a mala (麻辣) side for my spice-loving aunt, uncle, and brother, and a mild side for everyone else. We ordered so much food—thinly-sliced beef, lamb, beef balls, mushrooms, dumplings, shrimp, vegetables—that my aunt and uncle had to take two or three soup-bowl sized containers home.
I know there's a lot more to see in Shenzhen, and though the Chinese squatting toilets can be a little sketchy, I would love to go back.
Zense Hotel (昇逸酒店)
2 Wenjin Zhong Lu, Luohu District, Shenzhen, China
+(86) 755 8268 1888
Taste Restaurant @ Luohu Commercial City
3/F, Shop 3008
Luohu Train Station, Luohu District, Shenzhen, China
Fei Yang Wang (Futian Branch)/肥羊王 (福田店)
139 Fu Shing Lu, Futian District, Shenzhen, China
+(86) 755 8288 5296