I hadn’t been up to Shenzhen for several months and was feeling in desperate need of a massage. Add to that a friend who is relatively new to Hong Kong and had never been across the border. And so, yesterday, off we went. Since he’d never been there at all, I figured it made sense to do some of the usual stuff for his first visit. Which meant, of course, the Luo Hu shopping mall.
First stop lunch. I always love to eat at Laurel but we were hungry and I knew that at 1 PM on a Saturday afternoon it would be at least a 30 minute wait for a table, so we picked a different spot in the mall (sorry, I’m spacing on the name) with reasonable quality stuff and average price of around Y10 per dish. Of course I ordered way too much and we were full before the last dish came. And since it was a long time in coming, I tried to cancel it but they wouldn’t let me. Oh well, at Y38 (fried chili peppers stuffed with minced fish, spicy as hell) I didn’t mind too much.
Walking around the shopping mall, it seemed as if every shop had the same two iPad knock-offs, each of which seemed to have both Windows and Android installed.
As you can probably tell, the boxes look the same (the one on the right has the Android logo on top) and these things seemed relatively okay on first glance. Note that on the bottom there is a connector port (not Apple’s dock connector) as well as USB and a Micro-SD slot. The interface seemed like Windows and then you’d tap an arrow and another icon menu would launch featuring Android options, Android 1.6. The smaller iPad also has a front-facing web cam built in. Some dealers had taped an Apple logo on the back. I couldn’t figure out what processor was inside but these suckers were pretty freaking slow. Asking price everywhere was around Y1200; one shop came down to Y700 and they were trying really hard not to let me leave without buying one, literally hanging on to my arm as I tried to get out of the shop. But I figured, even if I could get them down another hundred or two (which seemed likely), this was something that I wouldn’t actually use more than a couple of times for novelty or show-off value due to that really slow processor. Perhaps there are better ones available at Huaquiangbei but we didn’t have time to get over there to check it out.
I did buy a different cute gimmicky thing – a key chain with what looked like the usual set of buttons for locking/unlocking a car but actually had a tiny video cam embedded – for Y80! Takes Micro-SD cards and seemed to work decently in the shop – tested out this one and it seems to work okay so I’ll be dangerous during the week ahead.
The only other photos of possible interest are these two shots taken from the toilet in Luo Hu looking at the border. I find the graves on the hillside facing Shenzhen to be of particular interest (sorry, couldn’t get rid of the reflection in the glass) – were these placed there merely because it’s on a hillside facing water or was there some political significance that I don’t know about? I fantasized that these were people born across the border, came to Hong Kong in 1949 and are hoping that some day their spirits will return to a free China?
The next stop was massage, of course. I asked around in the mall and the name that came up most often was Queens Spa & Dining so we went back to the train station, found the Queens Spa shop and hopped on their free shuttle bus for the 10 minute ride somewhere near Dong Men. I thought I’d been there before but everything there was new to me so perhaps it was my first time.
There were six people, all dressed in white, lined up outside to welcome people. Everything in this place seemed shiny new and immaculately clean. One floor features a “30,000 square foot water park!” but we hadn’t brought appropriate attire. The shower area featured three huge baths set at different temperatures with those big stone jacuzzi loungers, very relaxing.
On entering the lounge area, we encountered a Caucasian woman in uniform with a big button that read, “I speak ENGLISH!” Her name was Natalya, Russian, living in Shenzhen for 10 years. Actually we encountered a lot more English outside of Luo Hu than I’d encountered in the past – many of the Chinese staff members at the sauna spoke at least some English, at least at a similar level to my Mandarin (probably better), and when we went for our massage later on, one of the two massage girls could speak basic English and told us she was studying at a nearby school on her days off.
We settled into huge lounge chairs in the movie area – big projection TV, the day’s film schedule posted (we watched Four Christmases, Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, better than I expected) while helping ourselves to drinks and fruit – fancier drinks and food available at extra charge and we did spend Y10 for some popcorn.
When we felt ready for the massage, we were brought to a computer screen where we could choose from baseball-card-like displays of each masseuse, her name and specialties (though only in Chinese) – each one photographed in skin tight outfits looking like pop stars, each one more beautiful than the last, although of course no “extras” are to be had in these kinds of places. 90 minute massages start at Y168 and go up depending on which options you want. ”Hong Kong style” oil massage was Y188, if memory serves.
Note – if you just want to go there and use the facilities without getting a massage – pool tables, movie and karaoke rooms, mah jong room, water park, food, etc. – the cost is Y98 for 24 hours. That’s really nice, right? Walk around Shenzhen, get hot and sticky (no pun intended) and come here and pay 98 yuan for locker, shower, pool and some food, that’s a damned good deal IMHO.
From there, jumped in a taxi to my favorite restaurant, the Luo Hu branch of Sichuan chain Ba Shu Feng. And for the first time, these guys let me down. I ordered 4 dishes – 3 of them came relatively soon and were as fiery spicy and wonderfully tasty as ever. But the 4th dish never showed up. I kept calling waitresses over, the manager kept coming over, they kept getting on their walkie talkies and asking, they kept telling me it was coming, but it never came. Finally it was getting close to 11 PM and I told them we had to get back to Hong Kong and didn’t want to miss the train. As opposed to our lunch experience, this time they were very apologetic and didn’t charge us for the dish that never came. Which was very nice of them except that fish dish is really freaking tasty and I had been looking forward to it but it was not to be.
So we hopped in a taxi back to the train and very soon we were back across the border in Hong Kong. One thing I find is that people in Shenzhen are consistently friendly, smiling and helpful – and not just when they’re trying to help themselves to some of the money in your wallet. Then we came across the border to Hong Kong where no one smiles, everyone’s in a rush and grouchy all the time. Logic would seem to dictate the opposite should be true. But these days I find people in Shenzhen to be more laid back and welcoming than the people in Hongkie Town. My friend’s reaction to his first trip? He wanted to leave Hong Kong and move there. Next trip I’ll take him around Dong Men and Shekou and see if he still feels the same way.