A peculiar offramp beckoned. The expressway loomed overhead, but the offramps were standing alone. I BMXed up a dirt track and then lifted my bike over the barrier to get onto the road. It was connected to nothing in particular. Really weird, to be on a 3-lane road that went for all of one kilometer to nowhere. There were lines painted and traffic lights and everything. No people, no cars.
I guess this is one of those things you see when you get outside of Luohu, Futian, Nanshan and (to a lesser degree) Bao'an. Up north in Longgang and Longhua districts you really know you are in the PRD. Between the hills there are vast compounds of low-rise factories and dorms. There must be thousands of people living in each compound. Outside of the compounds there are the usual back alley food vendors, but the customers are all gaunt kids, squatting and smoking. The creeks that wind between the compounds are full of trash and have freakish colored water. People walk along the freeway. People walk a lot, because there aren't many bus connections. And the roads are either dusty and torn up or gleaming and leading nowhere. Yet.
That's actually the China i was looking for when i moved here. This pace of urbanization is such a wild sight to behold. It's hard to gain a personal insight from the people on the ground, though. This is the first day i was repeatedly referred to as 鬼佬 (gwái lóu), which here in Shenzhen is heard far less frequently than the Putonghua equivalent 老外 (lǎo wài) or the more politically correct 外国人 (wài guó rén). My Chinese is not bad these days, but cracking the nut of working class Cantonese or extremely poorly-accented Putonghua is tough.
I did agree to a few selfies with people very excited to see a real-life gwailou, though. Also, i encountered a water buffalo on a mountain path. That was very weird. I edged past his giant horns with his nostrils flaring just a few feet away. I did not snap a photo because i was scared. After an hour or two wandering about on foot in the hills and back down to the streets, i sat down for 凉皮 in a small industrial community not far from my home.
It's a little bit sad looking at the closed-down factories and warehouses right on that border zone between middle class Shenzhen and working class Shenzhen. In a western city, these would be prime venues for artists to move in and create a scene. I know there are several squatted buildings and art communes in Shenzhen - and in fact all around China - but because of the blistering pace of development they either go legit or get knocked down quicksmart. The gentrification here skips the bohemian phase. There are no lofts. The developers just dynamite entire city blocks and start fresh.
Then again, that's also what makes it so fascinating.
Man, it's still a thrill to be here.
When i got home i bought 7 mangos for 10 kuai from the fruit vendor out front of my building. Now i am drinking a beer and enjoying clean sheets and silky smooth legs. Time to watch Supernatural.