Shenzhen

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As a boomtown with an overwhelmingly young population, Shenzhen is full of the kinds of things young Chinese with a little extra money in their pockets like to do. You'll have no trouble, therefore, finding KTV (karaoke) and bars and clubs with loud dance or pop music—most of them very affordable. The city's significant Western expat community, centered in the western suburb of Shekou, also has its favorite spots. Of course, when it comes to a night out on the town, Hong Kong and Macau are just a hop, skip and a jump away, and many find themselves partying in Lan Kwai Fong or one of Macau's casinos after exhausting Shenzhen's relatively limited possibilities.

Things are just now beginning to get interesting as the young city begins to grow up. In the realm of culture and arts, Shenzhen is showing signs of maturity with a small but growing number of serious museums and performing arts venues establishing themselves in a cultural landscape dominated to date by theme parks, KTV, third-string "global" DJs and tacky club dancers. As for the kinds of festivals that define the cultural calendar elsewhere in China, Shenzhen's youth shows there's not much tradition to draw on, though the region's tasty lychee and peaches are celebrated. For Spring Festival, most of Shenzhen's young immigrant population goes home, leaving the city empty.

Bars & Restaurants

Shenzhen can have a bit of a frontier town vibe, with its young population and get-rich-quick attitude. Youth with a few extra kuai in their pockets means that the city's nightlife can be lively; however, it also can be quite seedy and, compared to the safety of other major Chinese cities, a bit dicey—petty crime is more prevalent in and around the SEZ than in most comparably sized Chinese urban areas. That said, if you exercise a fraction of the caution you would in New York or London, you should be fine. For live jazz and rock music, try one of the True Color bars or the Base Bar. There are a slew of bars and restaurants that cater to Western tastes in Shekou near Sea World; for a more interesting time with the Shenzhen locals, try bar- and club-hopping in Huaqiao City. If you get bored, there are always the trains and ferries to Hong Kong and Macau.

Performing Arts

Shenzhen can hardly claim to be a bastion of high culture, despite its battery of culturally and historically themed amusement parks (see replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal at Window of the World! Pose for photos on a real ex-Soviet aircraft carrier turned floating military theme park at Minsk World! And why actually travel China when you can see its most famous sights in miniature at Splendid China and absorb the essence of ethnic minority culture at China Folk Culture Village?). Any of the aforementioned parks feature regular performances that, depending on your attitude toward kitsch, exist somewhere between the delightfully corny and the irredeemably crass. Nevertheless, Shenzhen does have the hint of a promise of the beginning of a serious performing arts community, with the impressive new Shenzhen Concert Hall staging middle- and high-brow performances for audiences that have developed a reputation for rather low-brow behavior (think babies, mobile phones, hawking and talking).

Shenzhen Museums & Galleries

For all of its rough edges, Shenzhen is beginning to take art seriously (given the hot Chinese art market, one would be forgiven for thinking it were money first, art second). The recently renovated Shenzhen Art Museum focuses on contemporary urban art, including local art, which finds support from the Shenzhen Fine Art Institute. The Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art adds to the mix. For local, regional and general Chinese culture and history, visit the Shenzhen Museum. The city's theme parks also function as pop museums of a kind, though with definite "edutainment" and "imagineering" vibes (it's a small world after all).

Festivals & Events

With a short history to draw upon, local festivals are in short supply compared to older Chinese cities. During Spring Festival the city empties out as the immigrant population returns en masse to hometowns around China. Interestingly, Christmas is a big deal—the commercialized version, that is: the subtropical Chinese city does a fine job of decking the halls, piping in the holiday music, putting up the Xmas lights and donning gay apparel. The surrounding countryside does have its traditions, including annual celebration of its famous lychees at the late-June/early-July Shenzhen Lychee Festival (local peaches are a treat that time of year, too).

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