amw (amw) wrote,

exploring the geography of the high tech parks

Yesterday I was catching up on one of my favorite blogs - Shenzhen Noted. I read an entry posted back in March about the landfill in Shenzhen. There is a fascinating map posted in Cut and Pastiche: Landfilled which shows exactly when each additional stretch of land was reclaimed. The writer also took some photos along the route in 人才公园: the new new coastline.

I realized when i saw the reclamation map exactly why such large swathes of space along Shenzhen Bay are devoid of the urban villages that give this city its soul. 30 years ago all that land was under water!

My new job will be located in a part of the city that was under water just 15 years ago.

A couple of weeks ago i did a "test ride" to that area, trying to stay close to Shahe (Sandy River) all the way down. They are still developing the Shahe greenway, and the coastal greenway is closed to bikes on the weekend, so that was not a particularly successful route.

Today i decided to try again. I wanted to go all the way down Keyuan (Tech Park) Road, which cuts through the heart of the Shenzhen high tech area and ends near Shenzhen Bay Bridge park.

The start of Keyuan Road is about 5km from my house. I followed the road on the west side of Shahe south for a bit, then ducked under the G4 expressway for a few blocks. The south side of the G4 has a wide green buffer, and the street running parallel to it is very quiet. The northern end of Keyuan Road still feels a little gritty and industrial, although there are a couple of new towers going up.

I remember the first time i drove down 101 in Silicon Valley. As a lifelong computer nerd and professional software developer, that place was mythical to me. It was just after the dotcom bust, but even still there were dozens of bigass buildings visible from the road, billboards for Adobe and Cisco and Microsoft and Oracle and Sun... Not some bank or whatever, but companies full of people like me!

It occurred to me today as i passed Tencent and ZTE and Lenovo and Baidu and Alibaba that the 6km stretch of Keyuan Road is like a densely packed version of 101. Right down to the prices. Because that's the downside of Silicon Valley. As a nerd it seems cool and exciting to be there. Then you stop the car and realize everything is hideously expensive and every person walking around is a colossal douchebag.

Not everyone is a colossal douchebag in the Shenzhen Bay area, but it's close. I went to a large indoor/outdoor shopping mall called Coastal City to buy a bag of coffee. (I still haven't found anywhere to buy ground coffee outside of Starbucks.) Starbucks was jam-packed with people dicking around on their Macbooks. I spotted several software development tools open. I tried to find a place to get bubble tea for under 20元 but that was apparently impossible. I wanted small snack, but dishes seemed to start around 30元, which is 2-3 times what i am comfortable paying.

You remember my last entry where i spoke about my mental health issues and how i have learned to steer clear of triggers? Shopping malls full of chain stores and incredibly overpriced food outlets are a trigger for me. I started having an anxiety attack. Everyone around me seemed like an asshole and i felt trapped. I opened up my phone and typed 沙县小吃 - the working class eatery that is the one surefire way to find your way out of Rich China. I made a beeline over there and sat down to eat a small plate of noodles and a slice of stewed tofu for 8元.

I found a little temple.

I am still trying to figure out exactly where the old waterline was, but this was set just a little back from 后海大道 - Houhai Boulevard. I should point out that 后海湾 (Houhai Bay) was the original name of Shenzhen Bay before they renamed it. (Hong Kong still refers to it as Hau Hoi, which is the Cantonese pronunciation.) I suspect Houhai Boulevard is the old waterfront road.

If you search for 沙县小吃, there are none of them located east of Houhai Boulevard.

Walking east, the next big block is all gated communities and the aforementioned hideous shopping mall. You cannot cut through the middle. The gated communities have buzzers to get in and are staffed by security guards with angry frowns and white gloves.

After you pass that big block, then you hit the newest reclamation - all the shining towers of China's richest tech companies. I went up to a rooftop patio to take a look at the area. Several big blocks are still empty. Some have more towers going up. There are no affordable restaurants. There were more security guards than customers.

I was soaking wet from biking and walking round in the rain for a couple hours, so i decided to head home. I biked next to a couple of ZTE employees who had just gotten off work. I bought a bunch of bananas from a cheerful roadside vendor right up the top of Keyuan Road. I thought about Silicon Valley and tech bros and gentrification.

Lordy, when i saw 红花岭 - Honghua (Safflower) Ridge - rising up through the mist my heart leapt. I am not sure it will be realistic to maintain a commute of over an hour each way every day, but man it feels good to come back home to my village by the mountains.

I bought bubble tea and ducked under the awnings as i walked the home stretch. There are no awnings in Rich China. I guess you are just supposed to take a taxi to the mall. The dumpling lady was outside braving the rain, so i said hello then bought some potstickers and home fries to warm me up. My hair is still wet.

Tags: china

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