Category Archives: Travel

WOOF! Canines in Shenzhen

Many of you will not be shocked by my first topic of choice for Transplanet. My beloved pooch, Hank, is in Portland while I am abroad and I’m sure he is just as happy as when I am home. This blog works to describe a dog’s life in Shenzhen. I will attempt to draw out different angles regarding the topic such as: Shenzhen’s street dogs, new fads of dog ownership and the weird market of the selling and buying of such dogs.

It’s no lie that Chinese culture feasts canine cuisine for over centuries, particularly during the Lunar New Year. Today, it is even still a respected cuisine that is still visible in Shenzhen’s night markets. However, alongside urbanization, an individual’s need for status has transformed canine culture from slaughtering for dinner to actually, their most loyal companions.

Many shop and business owners within Shenzhen city limits and within the many urban villages have what are visible to the average person as a street dog, but many are actually guard dogs. I should know as I approached one to say hello and it fiercely growled at me. Lesson one so far about dogs in Shenzhen: Do not pet a guard dog and avoid eye contact with them. They mean business. However, not all dogs that appear homeless are really without home. Many wander the streets with their owners just behind them, maybe 50 to 100 feet away, with no leash at all. It is obvious they know the path to wherever as they maneuver thru traffic without a scratch or scare. They are agile and resilient. At home, we consider giving chicken bones to dogs deadly and harmful. Here in Shenzhen, dogs feast on chicken legs consuming meat, bones and all in nearly one gulp. Other street dogs can be loving as they crave attention. I approached one for a photo using ‘kissy’ noises and her ears perked and gently approached me. I held out my hand and she licked my salty, sweaty skin. She loved my pets and head scratches and even followed Eric and I for a bit before she realized we were not going to feed her. Lesson two: be cautious with the street dogs, some are pleasant, others not so much.

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Collared and leashed dog in street protects its chicken leg.

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He nearly eats the entire bone in one bite!

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Saying hello to a friendly street dog.

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She enjoys my pets and head scratches.

Much like the United States, one must register their dog in China. However, most cities regulate a household to only having one dog, known as the One-Dog Policy. Somewhere in the midst in the shift of perspectives to own dogs there were complaints about barking and other such nuisances. The policy also outlines size and breed restrictions which millions of dogs in China do not comply. Authorities offer a discount to licensing if you spay or neuter your dog, similar to the Unites States. Many refer to this policy as a solution offered Public Security Bureau. As with many regulations, there are loopholes around having more than one dog. Residents may register only one dog per household, yes, but if say your uncle of another household does not have a dog, you can register your additional dog to that address.  I do not think Shenzhen enforces this policy but, I do not know for sure.

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Owner of what it looks to be two dogs, takes them for a walk through Baishizhou urban village.

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The two play and wrestle in the street off leash.

Speaking with a few Chinese natives, they will tell you dogs are trendy here. Right now, the big thing is to have these white fluffy dogs known as Bichon Frise. There is another dog here that is very popular and looks much like a Bichon, but it is brown and fluffy, however, I am unsure of its breed or mix. While visiting Dafen, an urban village targeted for artists, a seller of Bichons was standing outside a gallery hoping to make a sell.To the eye he did not seem  to have any takers on his six Bichons but there were many photographs being taken including from yours truly. Back in 2013, all the hype was about Tibetan Mastiffs, which sold anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 USD. Although it is still said, that if you can afford to purchase, board, and feed a large animal you rank a high status in China’s society.

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Bichon Frise dog breeder awaits tourists and Dafen urban village goers to hopefully make a sell of this trendy breed.

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Owner of a large Mastiff shows off his status through the streets of Shui Wei.

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Two puppies await a home in Baishizhou urban village. They were very happy for attention and love from Eric and I.

Many of the streets at night are filled with dogs and owners, as it is very hot here during the day. People look to bring their dogs out to socialize with other canines and children. With dogs roaming off leash, people are not afraid or angry about this, they embrace it, greeting each friendly dog that approaches them. Often you can tell a young dog from an older one if it is on a leash or not. Somewhere in Shenzhen you can get your dog or puppy fix and much like in America be cautious when approaching a dog you do not know.

Enjoy!

Olivia H

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Shenzhen’s Street Life

By Eric Rutledge

Walk up to street level from the underground metro and Shenzhen’s active, seemingly chaotic street life will smack you in the face. Densely packed retail stores, restaurants, and produce shops sit below layers of bright signs in Chinese characters. Pedestrians, bikes, and scooters flow between the street and sidewalk, with little regard for signals, rules, or anyone in their way. Cars (mostly) stay to the street, but with little regard for anything but traffic lights. Horns are used more frequently than brakes, and yielding to anyone seems to mean you will lose years off your life that you can never get back.

This is Shenzhen’s Futian District, formerly an agricultural village, then the heart of the city’s 1980s manufacturing era that gave way to today’s modern business district. As Lauren mentioned below, public space is unsurprisingly a common topic on the Transplanet blog. But how can it not be? For any American planner fortunate enough to experience the invigorating streets of a 21st century Chinese city, one must blog about it.

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A crowded Futian District retail street with high end stores. Metro entrance can be seen in the center of photo. Versace advertisement, upper right corner of photo.

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Pedestrians, bikes, scooters, and cars tangled at an intersection

The idea of leaving my hotel or office and taking to the Futian streets is met with excitement and resistance. I can’t wait to be immersed in the sounds, smells, and sight of a bustling city, where poor rural migrants and ultra-wealthy urban elites push forward with their daily lives. On the other hand, the calm, air conditioned office offers a peaceful place where I can learn the history of the city below me and try to make sense of the chaos I can hear from the third story window.

In the end I’m happy to have both, but my office is not what makes this district special. The same place that American Vision Zero advocates would consider hell on earth is actually heaven on earth for American advocates of the complete neighborhood movement. For my non-planner friends, Vision Zero is the goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities via safe streets and responsible driving, and a complete neighborhood is one where home, work, school, parks, and groceries are within walking or biking distance. So while the street is a frenzy of cars, scooters, and busses and the sidewalk is a frenzy of pedestrians and bicyclists, usually whatever you left the house to get is just around the corner. It’s the latter that American city planners can strive to achieve more of, but what are the conditions in Shenzhen that make the hyper-active streets not only feasible, by necessary?

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Two men leaving a street-level market at the base of a residential building

First, Shenzhen is dense. The urban area features 14,000 people per square mile and the total population is approaching 20 million. Over 1,000 skyscrapers dot the skyline and omni-present cranes are raising even more. Shenzhen’s Futian District is no exception to the density rule and it’s rare to see a building under four stories tall. While some American cities are denser (San Francisco ~17,000 people/sq. mile and New York City ~27,000 people/sq. mile), it’s the sheer number of people in Shenzhen and how they move across the city that make it feel different. The city continues to add sparkling new underground metro lines that connect the city and leave American transportation planners wondering “How can we do that?”. Literally millions of pedestrians pop out of the underground metro system every day and are immediately a potential customer for the street level shops, restaurants, and news stands. If a Shenzhener needs something on their way home from work, they can simply grab it on the way to their apartment. In this regard, densely packed ground floor retail is not a convenience, but a necessity.

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Futian District, from the top of the Difu Hotel where UPDIS interns are staying

Second, smaller living spaces and less cars means more frequent shopping trips for less items. The Futian streets are full of shoppers carrying items at their sides, in rolling carts, or on the back of their bike. The all-American Costco just isn’t a thing here, and while those fortunate enough to have cars certainly use them, parking for any use is limited throughout the city.

Finally, China’s new urban population has spurred serious demand for material goods. In just 35 years, Shenzhen’s lush agricultural land has been replaced by a modern city, full of urban residents that once lived off the land. Consumerism is alive and well here, and much of the shopping takes place on the street. Although high end stores are only located in air conditioned super malls, Futian’s ground level storefronts sell everyday food, clothes, phones, and household supplies. Everywhere you look, it seems, Shenzheners are taking to the street to spend their newly acquired wealth.

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Ground floor retail with residential above, wide sidewalks separated by a planter

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Active streets near Futian’s large indoor electronics market

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Transporting goods via cart and a Coca-Cola to cool off

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Shoe store on the left, fruit stand on the right

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Futian’s massive indoor electronics market, where buyers come from around the world to purchase an endless variety of electronic goods

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Busy pedestrian street, although cars and large trucks are not banned

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Going for a ride

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Street barber

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Outdoor market tucked away in a neighborhood courtyard

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Disorder on the streets

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Cars whizzing by a man crossing the street with a cart full of boxes

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Great Wall Fresh – posted by Lauren

I’m guessing future MURP interns are one of this blog’s primary audiences, so I thought I’d pass on some travel advice. Hat tip to Nick for knowing about this place, and it also got a thumbs up from Hannah earlier this year.

Great Wall Fresh is a guesthouse in a tiny village in the shadow of the Great Wall. The Chen family is incredibly nice, the food is delicious, and the hiking is first rate. My husband Eli and I spent the last three days there and highly recommend it.

We did the two challenging hikes and each took about 6 hours with plenty of breaks. If you only have time for one of the demanding ones I’d recommend the Hunchback Curve. The views from the High Tower hike were amazing, but the wall is in much better shape on the Hunchback section. A part of it is even restored and they were working on it when we were up there, so chances are good even more will be restored in a year or two.

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It is a lot of scrambling up and down mountains, and parts are slow going because you’re climbing through rubble. But you’ll likely have the whole thing to yourself, and the surrounding valleys and forests are beautiful.

Below are a few photos from the High Tower hike. Getting up there was a little rough, the trail was not well-maintained in spots so it required some bushwhacking, but once you’re up there it definitely feels like the top of the world. And there’s a wind farm down there!

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Back at the house you definitely get a feel for rural country life. The food was really good and they keep the fridge stocked with beer. We ate dinner in the courtyard and watched the sunset over the wall, and got a hot breakfast before hiking each morning.

noodles quail eggs green beans breakfast

If you want to see the Great Wall and aren’t into the tourist scene, this is the place.