Lo Wo, Shenzhen: shopping, spitting and savoring

Is that the long, loud, guttural sound of someone hacking up a giant wad of phlegm? I must have crossed the border into China!

After receiving countless short-term China visas, I was delighted to secure the real prize: a 10-year, multi-entry China visa. Because only Americans and Canadians are eligible for this rare treasure, I felt especially smug.

With my new visa I can now travel to mainland China whenever I feel like it. As the border is roughly 10 kilometers from my house in Tai Po, Hong Kong (or about a third of the distance to the bright lights of Central, Hong Kong), the mega-city of Shenzhen has suddenly opened like an oyster.

See the wall of buildings sprouting up after the rolling hills of green? That is Shenzhen as viewed from northern Hong Kong.

See the wall of buildings sprouting up after the rolling hills of green? That is Shenzhen as viewed from northern Hong Kong.

The first thing I did to celebrate my new visa was to take a trip to what I historically considered to be one of the worst spots in mainland China: the Lo Wu Commercial Centre (known as Luo Hu on the northern side of the border). Despite hating it the last several times I visited, I was a complete love-sick tourist this time around. I ate cheap Chinese food in a big, noisy dining room decorated with pink curtains and crystal chandeliers. I inhaled the smell of second-hand cigarette smoke mixed with car exhaust and industrial pollution. I brought my own tissues to the washroom, squatted to pee and finally mastered ‘splash-back’ avoidance.

I was euphoric!

Those who don’t have a soft spot for mainland China might be more interested in the more obvious plus points of a trip to Lo Wu, where you can buy a ‘copy’ version of anything, have clothes tailored or simply gawk at the fake jewel-encrusted dresses, evening bags and iPhone covers on sale. Students of Mandarin will enjoy practicing their Chinese while filling their bellies with duck, dumplings and jasmine tea. And everyone will marvel at the ingenuousness bargaining and stocking methods of the shopkeepers.

It is a great day out.

In a city of seven million people there must be many other things worth seeing. Shenzhen experts: what should I do next time?

LoWu/LuoHu central atrium _ expatlingo.com

Lo Wu’s central atrium: calm in the eye of the shopping storm.



Scarf shop in LoWu, Shenzhen _ expatlingo.com

See the foot in the ceiling? That’s the overhead stockroom.


16 responses to “Lo Wo, Shenzhen: shopping, spitting and savoring

  1. Did you get the visa in Seattle? Didn’t think they issued those in HK.

    Also, Luo Hu was my old stomping ground. You may even be able to try 贵州菜 slightly south of the Vanguard on Chunfeng Lu. Sour and spicy is the name of the game.

    • Issued right here in Hong Kong! It took me three working days, but I know another American who had it rushed in one day (using an agency). Thanks very much for the food tip.

      • When I lived there, there were (only) four benefits to Shenzhen: bumper cars, alpine slides, its proximity to HK (specifically for its airport/internet), and the variety of regional Chinese food. That last one is something you should really explore, as HK can’t hold a candle to it…save maybe for the our-eggs/beef/everything-are-genuine argument.

        The 向西 ‘hood in Luo Hu has a lot of cheap fare, and is not terribly far from Luo Hu Commercial City.

      • Yes, it seems the only cheap Chinese food in HK is Cantonese. For everything else, the price is steep and even then it’s often not quite right. While food will be my primary focus, I’m terribly curious about the bumper cars and alpine slides you mention.

      • 对不起, I forgot to note that it’s either Lo Wu or Luo Hu (re: the title of this post).

        Also, there’s a pretty choice 碰碰车 place in 白石夏…at least as of 2011. Now it’s probably a 50-story building that from 100 meters away looks pristine, but is actually just filled with 烟头 and broken tiles. Otherwise, many parks (such as Hong Hu and Dong Hu in Luo Hu) throughout China usually have ’em.

        The alpine slide was somewhere near Dong Hu park too. I vaguely remember a Jusco being not too far.

  2. Take advantage of the multi-trip visa to China. Before long you’ll be going over there for cheap foot massages and custom made curtains and upholstery. Ohh… the possibilities….

  3. Pingback: The picture that got away from us in Shenzhen | Expat Lingo·

  4. I’ve never been but I can see it now. Great descriptions! Not sure I’d ever want to live in China, but having it at my fingertips would be nice. How fun!

    • Living in mainland China is better than it sounds! We thoroughly enjoyed 4 years in Zhuhai. (But it was very nice to have Hong Kong only a one hour ferry away!)

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