Shenzhen is a city on the Mainland bordering Hong Kong that is renowned for its shopping. Best known for shopping of imitation branded products and electronics, it is also a major commercial hub. It also has a popular theme park – Window Of The World, which showcases scaled down replicas of the wonders of the world and other well-known tourist attractions, and this theme park is more popular with the Indian tourists. This may perhaps be due to the fact that in a short span of about 3 to 4 hours, one can get to see the replicas of the Wonders Of The World, and click pictures there. The undisputed fact is that most Indians arriving into Shenzhen make a beeline for this park.
The other well-known theme park is Splendid China, which is relatively less promoted in India for some reason. It is this park that my wife and I decided to visit on our trip to Shenzhen on 08 October 14. Arriving there shortly after lunch, we were impressed by the bright, colourful and yet serene atmosphere of the park from the moment we stepped in. The full name of this park is Splendid China Folk Culture Village, and it showcases the history and culture of ancient China that is most appealing visually. It not only has scaled-down replicas of ancient Chinese architecture from all over China, but also has cultural shows that take you down the history lane in a thoroughly engrossing manner. It brings to the fore the various “nationalities” that China was originally comprised of, their way of living, their religions and of course, the architecture of ancient China, including a scaled down version of the Great Wall.
We entered the park just in time to witness the Battle On Horseback show. This magnificent show is an enactment of a great war between nomadic warriors who fought against a much larger army. The skills demonstrated by the horsemen AND women was truly thrilling and amazing. The narration, though, was in Chinese, which we do not understand. However, that notwithstanding, the show managed to create a lot of excitement because this show was all about the skills of the riders and warriors and one does not really need to know the language to appreciate that, because that is what is on display there. I captured a few snippets of the show on video and clubbed them into one short video, which you can see below. Pardon me if the editing is poor, because frankly, I haven’t done any 🙂 All I have done is stitched together several short clips to form a single one.
After the show, we chose to walk through the park rather than avail of the available transport that can take you through. The available modes of transport include a golf-cart, a colorful, battery-driven “train” comprising of a golf-cart pulling several open “bogies”, a donkey cart, boat rides around the lake, or even battery driven three-wheeled scooters with two seats that are available for self-drive. Our wonderful guide, Amy, took us around the park on foot so that we could better explore the park at our own pace.
The problem with using an available transport is that these can only use the cemented pathways made in and around the park, and the time that you get to stop and explore each attraction is quite limited and you tend to miss the attractions built in the inner areas of the park, so exploring the park on foot is a much better option, if you don’t mind walking. And trust me, it can be quite a walk because the park is HUGE, and is spread over an area of several acres. But given the fact that there are so many trees, you will hardly feel the sun and it is much more pleasant this way. And should you feel thirsty, there are enough vending machines installed in the park that dispense water bottles, soft drinks and even beer cans, so one need not worry about running out of water or refreshments there. There are also several local food outlets selling snacks, and even some specialty restaurants if one wishes to have a proper meal.
The replicas of the ancient structures are beautifully crafted, bright and colourful. The entire park is so bright and colourful that we were totally mesmerized by the sights. And yet, it is so tranquil and peaceful that the absence of big crowds and noise made us wish we had more time to spend there. It is a photographer’s delight and one could actually go crazy clicking there – I know that we did. We clicked so many pictures and thankfully, the battery in the camera, as well as in my phone, lasted just long enough for us to finish the tour of the park. I am posting here some of the pictures that we clicked, so that one can relate to what I am talking about.
One major attraction of the park is the beautiful lake surrounded by ancient architectural replicas, and even a Wind & Rain Bridge. The water-wheels that are in use there show how water was distributed and channeled for irrigation during the ancient times – truly amazing. One very interesting thing that we came across was pieces of hollowed bamboo that were suspended in the shallow flowing water, with one end touching the ground. The bamboos kept tipping with the weight of the water passing through them and once full, they would be pushed to the ground, hitting it hard and making a nice pleasant noise. With several pieces of suspended bamboos hitting the ground intermittently, the sound was almost musical. We were quite puzzled by the purpose of this contraption, till our guide explained the purpose of it. It was quite simple, really. The noise made by the moving bamboos scared the birds away, eliminating the need for a scarecrow, thereby keeping grain safe from birds. Innovative indeed ! The attached video will, perhaps serve to explain this better. As with the previous video, this is just several short clips stitched together to form a single clip.
It is also possible to take a boat ride on the lake, but since we did not have that much time, we chose not to. We were tempted, of course, because there were several unique looking types of boats that we could see moored on the sides of the lake. However, there was just too much to see and we did not wish to miss out on anything, and hence a boat ride was not an option for us.
One thing that I must remark upon is the curious kind of feeling one gets when you look around at the skyline. When not hidden by trees, in the background the tall skyscrapers of the city are visible beyond the periphery of the park, and it is at times like this that one gets a strange feeling of time standing still within the modern world. On the one hand you are looking at the replica of an ancient structure, and on the other hand you can see the modern world waiting beyond. And yet, there is complete absence of noise. So wonderful.
The other thing that is truly amazing about this park is that despite being a riot of colours in several places, there is so much peace and tranquility. The staffs working at the outlets within the park are also dressed in traditional Chinese clothes, blending wonderfully into this magical atmosphere that the park manages to create. The whole place is so beautiful and resplendent that the name Splendid China seems so appropriate. It is splendid indeed and a must visit, especially if one is interested in the culture of ancient China. The whole place seems to create a visit-China-in-a-day kind of atmosphere.
We left this park with a lot of reluctance as time was running out, and actually missed out on two other shows that are regularly featured there – one being the Dragon & Phoenix Dance and the other one being the traditional Chinese Costume Dancing Show. I am told that both are truly amazing. But never mind – that’s something new to be discovered on my next trip. And I am reasonably sure that if I ever get to Shenzhen again, there will definitely be a another visit to this beautiful place.
Some travel tips –
If you are in Hong Kong, and wish to visit Shenzhen and / or this park, but do not have a China visa, don’t fret about it. Just contact a licensed tour operator in Hong Kong who has services in Shenzhen and they can arrange a temporary group visa for a minimum of two people travelling together.
Getting to Shenzhen is easy. There is a regular train service that runs from Hung Hom station in Hong Kong to Luohu station, and it is just a 45 minutes ride. However, it would be better to do the trip on a week day like we did, rather than the weekends. That way, one can avoid the crowds in the train as well as at immigration check points.
An abridged version of this review has also been posted on Trip Advisor.