Saturday, February 25, 2012

Photo of the Day--February 26, 2012

I've certainly mentioned Dongmen before in this blog, and have basically just talked about how it's the most crowded, manic district in Shenzhen, a shoppers paradise that mixes McDonald's, pagodas, clubbing music, homeless people, and street food into one of the most explosive and amazing atmospheres you're likely to encounter on this planet. It is one of the oldest parts of town (so it's like 40 years old), with the subway station nearby, Laojie, meaning "Old Street". I first visited Dongmen in May of 2011 on a day trip to Shenzhen from Hong Kong, and immediately I was completely in love with the place. It's like a massive, outdoor, Chinese version of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.

So anyway. I used to spend a good 2 nights per week wandering Dongmen. Lately I haven't been doing so as much, for whatever reason, and consequently there was this odd void in my life that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Last night, I went back to Dongmen. And my god is my life now complete. I instantly got nostalgic for all the things I'd missed about Dongmen, but not even thought about. Among others--

1) Every single shop in Dongmen has clubbing music on. Really. Loud. Clubbing music. Huge bass/subwoofers. And many shops have at least one employee standing on sort of a pulpit thing just bouncing up and down to the music. The most uncommon, illogical, and indeed probably ineffective method possible to get people into your store to come buy things. But so funny to see.

2) The lights. Particularly last night, as there was a light bit of rainfall, so you had some lights reflecting off the pavement. But yes, I would say the only place in the world I've ever seen with more neon lights per square foot than Dongmen is probably Shinjuku, Tokyo. Which, to be fair, outstrips Dongmen by a wide margin.

3) The food. I do not have sophisticated tastes. I am perfectly fine eating <$1 per meal street food. And for this, Dongmen is paradise. Anything you could possibly want. Dalian squid? Check. Lamb kebabs on skewers? Oh yes. Spicy noodle soup? Indeed. Absolutely glorious. I went to go see my noodle soup guy for the first time in a month, and he not only recognized/was pleased to see me, but commented on my slightly improved Chinese over the last month. The noodles there are brilliant, a dish called "Suen La Fen", which costs 6 yuan (<$1) and comes in a little paper bowl. Most western people don't care for it, because it's spicy as hell and tastes quite a bit like salt, but my god do I enjoy this magnificent, simple dish. And immediately after taking my first sip, I texted John saying "I am never going a month without spicy noodle soup ever again". Such a delicacy.

4) The mix of western and Chinese. That is, there is a 3-story KFC in Dongmen, built in a building meant to look like a pagoda. Now, given that this is Shenzhen, nothing is really "old", but it is still really really cool to see an old-style Chinese building housing the Colonel's finest fried chicken.

So anyway, last night I spent a good 2 hours wandering Dongmen until John woke up from his afternoon nap after that night out in Dongguan. It was unquestionably the most peaceful 2 hours I've had in a month, despite the fact that I was in the noisiest, smelliest, most crowded part of town. Absolutely much-needed way of just having a good thinking session. John ended up arriving a bit later on in the night, and we decided to walk from Dongmen to Children's Palace--about 10-11km across the city. That was interesting. We encountered this massive "Shenzhen Flower Market", which was basically a town within Shenzhen that had, among other things, lots of flower shops, a lot of creative-style businesses (i.e. graphic design, architecture, etc), and seafood restaurants. Very strange, but interesting.

On another note--due to my still being quite out of it yesterday when writing the blog post about Dongguan, I completely forgot that I did, indeed, have a worthwhile photo from there! So consider this yesterday's photo:

What is this photo, you ask? This is two construction workers using blowtorches, with face-protection masks made of, you guessed it, cardboard. Like you do. Welcome to China.

And today's photo:

This is Dongmen. I thought it was pretty cool to see all the red orbs hanging between the palm trees (yes, there are loads of palm trees here!) Notice the very wide sidewalks. Shenzhen, being a very well-planned city, tends to have some of the widest sidewalks you'll ever see. No joke, you could drive a 4-door sedan down one of these things. Kind of nice.

Anyway, that's about all for today. A bonus photo, a walk around Dongmen, then the old 10k across town. Tomorrow I'm off to the US, so unless I have time to write another post this afternoon then have it post automatically tomorrow, there will be no post, as I'm leaving my apartment at 7:15am to get to the office to have the driver take us to the airport. More to come later, from the opposite side of the world.

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