Shenzhen’s surface snapshot

My business relationships with China companies and individuals started almost a decade ago. But so far those relationships were made and maintained online. We are doing occasional video chats but meeting people in person is – as we are all aware – another level and necessary for maintaining a good long term relationship.

My initial plans to visit China were blocked by COVID which make it impossible to travel there for several years. China immigration restrictions were fully lowered less then a year ago. There are still restrictions, but unrelated to health.

Right moment never comes

My days are full. Some time is spent for family, some for business, some for pleasure. Spring is also full of events in the industry all over the world. This year, this month, planets came into right position and I quickly planned my trip to Shenzhen.

What do I know about China?

Little. As I never been there before, I had to make a research with most recent data. Luckily there are many YT videos, where people share their experiences travelling there. China is special and you need to check what is general policy for entering the country and if there is any special policy related to the country of your origin. If you are entering the country as a tourist its again a bit different then if you travel for business reasons. First, I had to get a formal invitation letter from one of my business partners – who is granting for me. Then, when applying for visa, its quite extraordinary procedure. China government wants to know something … everything about you. Who you are, what you do for living, in what kind of relationship you are, do you have kids, when they were born. Are your parents alive. If yes, when they were born. What is the purpose of your visit, who is inviting you, what relationship you have with them. Following by mug shot and providing all fingerprints. Few days later, visa was granted.

Getting there

After paperwork is done, you can buy transportation tickets. There are flights to Shenzhen from many directions, except from our village. I choose to travel from Ljubljana to Zürich and further to Hong Kong. This route had the lowest flight hop counts, but as I was told and later experienced, more complex then going directly to Shenzhen. Airport was actually very near to my hotel. Where I could hear planes departing every few minutes, 24/7.

Hong Kong


Hong does not require China mainland visa and you can get a temporally tourist visa on arrival by filing an application. Even I had a visa for mainland China, I had to go trough the emigration process and was allowed to enter Hong Kong shortly after. But as my destination was mainland China, I had to do similar process later once again. After reaching West Kowloon train station I purchased the ticket (here they still accept VISA or MasterCard while in China its more or less just application payment via Ali Pay / We Chat. As you need to buy card for a specific train, I asked clerk to include the process of immigration. This is important as if you miss the train, you need to go back to the ticket office and reschedule. This is free once, while if you fail, you need to buy a new ticket and repeat the process of immigration. There were hundreds of people in several lines with waiting time for about 45 minutes to be processed – taken finger prints, mug shot, all once again.

On my luck, I managed to catch the train in last minute. I show the ticket to the gate keeper and he start to run with me to make sure to catch the train and to enter the right wagon. Train was full and only my seat seems to be unoccupied. Train from West Kowloon Hong Kong towards Futian station, Shenzhen, takes around 15 minutes at modes speed of 150 km/h. Train can go faster, but as I was told, its limited in urban areas due to the noise. Fastest commercial train in China, and on the world, goes up to 430 km/h.


Mobile phone roaming with my local Slovenia number worked, but its crazy expensive, so I purchased a local prepaid SIM with some data included – for 12 EUR. Sadly I didn’t have time to search for best available option, China Mobile, at Hong Kong airport. For buying a prepaid number, a passport was scanned.


I already purchased tickets for Hong Kong Air Express online, which are BTW, all tied to your passport ID. At the gates you scan passport to pass. After failing to pick cash for the 3rd time, I gave up on having this backup option and continue with my travel.


Credit cards are largely obsolete in China. International hotels accept that, while elsewhere / everywhere is Ali Pay / We Chat. Which is actually very convenient way and worked perfectly but once. You don’t need to carry any wallet. Only your phone. Cash is accepted, but looks weird trying to pay with it.

Where are you coming from”?

I arrived in Sunday and one of the partners arranged to pick me up at the central transportation hub in Shenzhen. This is not far away from Hong Kong. It was like 20 minutes with a bullet train. As I already had 4G connectivity, I could use We Chat to communicate with people that were waiting for me. But when arriving to the station, my first small problem started. For some reason, my connectivity on the mobile phone was suddenly lost. Before I lost that, I was told that they were waiting for me at gate 5. Futian station is big and was also first underground high speed railway station connected to Shenzhen metro. In short. Its massive. In a confusion and panic for not having internet connectivity I managed to somehow went to completely wrong direction. There were policemen or some sort of security forces all around and I said to myself, lets ask the guy for direction to make sure – as I was under time pressure. Of course the guy didn’t know a word in English. Even a simple question, which direction is “Exit 5”, was too complex for him. I never used translator before, so we also didn’t get right words out right away. But they guy was resourceful and he didn’t waste any time, when technology didn’t worked in our favour. He noticed some young students standing few meters away chatting and he jump there and ask them if they can talk to me. And problem was solved in a second. They knew English very well and were so happy to help. Once it was clear what is the problem, that police said he will drive me to right exit as its quite far away. While chatting with the girls, they asked me: “Where are you coming from”. I told them, from Ljubljana, Slovenia. “Oh, how nice!” she said. “I have been there. Such a nice city!”. I was shocked that she heard about my town and was even there.

Traditional food


Once they picked me, with a Tesla, they took me to a dinner and carefully ask what kind of food I would prefer. I said that I will eat what they will. I want to experienced local food. We went into traditional fish restaurant, not far away from the hotel where I was staying. As I was still under too much adrenaline, tired from the trip, it was difficult to truly enjoy the food. But I enjoy it every day.


There are a lot of hotels but only two type of them. A hotel for foreigners and hotel for locals. Hotel was granted by one of the partners and was – for locals. On check-in, they took my passport and 200 RMB insurance for hotel expenses in bar or for breakfast. VISA? No. MasterCard? No. Only Union Pay or Ali Pay. Which I installed previously, added Credit Card, but never tested if it really works. It worked. Hotel was low budget, but nice and clean, with large bathroom and AC. A pack of condoms comes by default ;) What else do I need? As it was “late”, around 10 p.m., and I was destroyed from travel, I took a shower and jumped into bed.

First day

I knew it would be hot, but still, first day I went to the meeting in a suite. It was on barely acceptable level, but as it was 5 minutes away from the hotel and as we were under the AC all the time, not that critical. We had business talks for a whole day, delicious lunch in between, following by more discussion until dinner. We all tried to spent together as much time as possible, after some small talk, mainly business related conversations. Dinner we had was amazing experience, accompanied with stories about extreme food diversity, where Shenzhen is exceptional and unique. As this multi-million metropolis didn’t even existed 40 years ago, there is little what can be called local. All of the food came from all over China, so if you want to try different flavours, and try food you never even imagine to exists, Shenzhen is a best place to be.


Second day

Second day I had a meeting like about 2km away. I choose to walk there as I wanted to see the street life. Even on this small distance, several things caught my attention. Most of people are commuting underground, so the traffic is not that bad. I found out later, during a week, that its quite easy to drive around town with a car. But on the surface, most people commute with scooters, with bikes or walk. On the street is actually quite chaotic, but there is some strange order in that chaos. People are honking all the time, scooters squeezing between pedestrians. One could see many small traffic violations, but nobody seems to be angry about. In some places, if you honk where its prohibited, AI tracks you down and issue you a traffic violation ticket.


Third day

Meeting was in another part of the town, some 15 – 20 km away. My partners sent me a DiDi to pick me at my hotel. It was fairly new mid range car, but the driver didn’t spoke any English. No small talk during around 30-45 minutes ride. But it was a clear sunny day and I could observe endless sky-scrapper landscape on the way. He dropped me on a side of the road and someone picked me up in no time (had them on We Chat all the time). After we went to fetch some coffee (which was sadly not very good), and went straight to the company. After the discussions, we went to a very good traditional restaurant for having a lunch.


Fourth day

I meet another business partner. He picked me up at my hotel with his BMW and took me to the harbour area. We went first to a good coffee at Starbucks, following by walking trough one of their parks near to the coastal area. After awhile we went to, again, a very nice traditional restaurant for lunch, followed by discussions. Some about business, but mainly about the culture and even philosophy as he know English very well. He graduated from american history and supposed to become an English teacher, but ended up doing something else as many of us.


Fifth day

I went not far away from my hotel again. To one of the best looking sky-scrappers in the area. View from 28th floor was amazing. You could see all south Shenzhen harbour straight down to the sea. After meetings and discussions, followed by lunch I departed back to my hotel. As it started to rain, I took Didi (Uber). Ride was short, just about 1.5km of ride, but at the end both payment systems failed to pay for the service. Perhaps it was connectivity. I don’t know why as it worked normally later in the grocery shop. But, the driver was super friendly. After trying several times with both payment systems, he noticed my embarrassment and signalised “its OK”, asking “is this your hotel?” with his hands and some strange language, probably Chinese ;) I kept on trying and at the end gave him a 10 EUR cash which I happened to have on me. He was surprisingly looking on that strange paper he clearly never saw in his life. I was telling him “Its 10 dollars” and he just smiled with “no problem”, “your hotel”, “go”. In Chinese. Later my local friends told me, that its not a problem if you can’t pay as you need to pay before calling a cab again. Driver is not under the stress of not getting paid. In the afternoon I had another meeting, followed by a traditional dinner, trying also some local beer. It was quite unusual that company staff worked late in the evening also in Friday. We departed company headquarters at 8 p.m.



I am e-car enthusiast and I think this is good way to drive, especially in the city, but on the other hand this will continue to remain as a choice. Even electric cars has several advantages, people will still want to drive petrol ones. Especially where price and cost does not matter. Shenzhen is a mega city of tomorrow. As big majority of people doesn’t own the car, but rely on advanced and high performance public transportation, petrol or electric car plays a small role. It is good that direction is electric, but this place shows that fully electric is not desired. In China it would be easiest to declare 100% electrification as they could unite things like payments, but there is a lot of wealthy and super wealthy people in Shenzhen. Usually those who own a car, have a good one. There is a lot of electric cars, but is difficult not to notice, there is also a lot of high performance premium V6 / V8 ones. More then I was expecting to see. I was driving around with several people, petrol BMW, which was BTW assembled in China, latest Tesla, some unknown electric BYD and “small” V8 Maybach. In general there are a lot of German cars, primarily Mercedes, followed by BMW. One could see Audi, while Volkswagen or something else I didn’t notice. I think affordable segment is covered by several local brands. But there is another huge segment, which is almost 100% electric – scooters. They are in insane numbers in front of every large building. In one walk, I could notice hundreds of charging sockets for scooters. Shenzhen has a mild climate, so one can ride with for a whole year.


Feeling of security

When I was preparing for the trip, I watched several videos on travelling to China and one aspect was pointed out by several people – security. In most other countries around the world people are often attacked, robbed, raped or even killed. Violence is sadly happening all the time. There are zones, where its advised not to go and people got used to that hopelessness and don’t even think safety at night, safety everywhere in town is possible. My second day I had a chance to see it with my own eyes as I went to a walk around late at night. You could see teenage girls, kids, elderly, some walking around alone, without any fear on their faces. I forced myself to go into darkest streets to be scared but I couldn’t get that feeling. There are security forces walking around, you can see police quite often, there is CCTV everywhere. And you get a feeling ordinary people will help you if there will be some problem.

“Old” town

Even Shenzhen is a tech city, even there are hundreds and hundreds of skyscrapers, you can also see many small shops and business all around. Especially in “old” parts. Yes, this mega city has also parts which is between 30 and 40 years old and I lived there. Its called Bao’an District. Most of small shops and businesses are opened late in the night, a few even 24/7. A local dentists had a “quick check” service directly on the street, while sadly not operating at the time I was passing. Car repairs were also everywhere, one could see a small industrial facilities doing some metal works, thousands of small shops or some local food service. I went to several stores around my hotel, to check what do they sell and to fetch some groceries like water, local beers and some candies.

West sickness

There is one thing I was missing since the first day. A sip of a good strong coffee. Last good coffee was at Ljubljana airport, while every other coffee I tried was just disgusting. My Chinese friends told me – they don’t drink or care about coffee as they are drinking tea. I knew there is a Starbucks in the town and there is McDonald’s. If not for food, coffee should have acceptable taste. First I went to nearest Starbucks, where is also a place where I saw first person that was clearly not Chinese. It seems westerns enjoy hanging out there. Coffee was good, but extraordinary expensive compared to local offerings. I think mid coffee was around 5 euros.



Everything was normal until arriving to Hong Kong airport. There, they started to delay our departure. First for 20 minutes, then for one hour, then they finally boarded us. Then captain explained that there is some situation due to the weather and we don’t know when we will get permission for departure. This came with 5 hours (in total) delay, which most we spent fully boarded. It was surreal when we finally went airborne. Then after additional 11 hours of sleeping and killing the time we landed in Frankfurt. I could not believe – It was snowing. From 30+ degrees straight into this :( and I didn’t have nothing to wear. When I left, it was like 25 – 27 degrees. Of course I missed my original connecting flight but it should be replacement flight shortly. Sadly, we had to wait another 3-4 hours also here and after coming to Ljubljana, my bags were not there … They arrived the next day.

As I didn’t have much time for acting as a tourist, there is only this much of impressions and pictures. I took my proper camera, but sadly never used it. Even only for a week, it was worth going there. I will surely go there more, if not before, next year around the same time.

Check other photos
3rd party Twitter about Shenzhen