Shenzhen is a city that has a lot going on at any time. If you’re visiting, definitely don’t be afraid to spend upwards of 4 days there! The population isn’t very high by Chinese standards (a “mere” 12 million) but it definitely is a large city. There is extensive public transportation, a large airport, and a great bus system. It’s also the city that borders Hong Kong! You can take a bus or even the subway directly to it!
Unfortunately, I had less than 24 hours to explore it. I had a long stopover there on my way between Beijing, China and Hanoi, Vietnam! Half of that time was spent sleeping, but I had a good 10 waking hours or so to explore the city. Unfortunately, Shenzhen is sprawling enough that it wasn’t enough for me to do much. Still, I had a good time at the Splendid China and Chinese Folk Villages Theme Park!
[Recommended Read: Getting to and From the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport]
What Splendid China and Chinese Folk Villages Theme Park Are
It’s called a theme park, but it doesn’t have the traditional roller coasters and boat rides. Splendid China is one half of a single park, and the Chinese Folk Villages are the other half.
The Splendid China half is essentially a mini-world, where all of the most famous structures (historical and natural) are recreated in tiny form. You can see basically every place you ever wanted to visit in China, just at scales of 1:30 or so. If you ever want a great overhead shot of something using just your phone, you can definitely get a great one here!
The Chinese Folk Villages half is a showcase of exactly that – Chinese folk villages. Most of these are minority cultures that still do exist in rural China, and are awesome to see! They also have performances all around that half of the park! You can see people dancing, singing, and performing daring feats of danger all day.
Why I Chose Splendid China Over Other Shenzhen Attractions
(Note that Splendid China is one half, and the Chinese Folk Villages are the other half, of a single theme park! I call them Splendid China to refer to the collective theme park.)
I actually had a hard time with this decision. There were lots of things I could do in Shenzhen, but Splendid China seemed like a good choice due to both practical and cultural reasons. First, it’s closest to the Shenzhen Bao’an airport, near the middle of town. It’s still about an hour’s subway ride away from it, but that’s much closer than Xianhu Botannical Garden or Dafen Village, for example. Those are on the far east side of town, and the Shenzhen airport is on the west.
Second, it’s China-specific. The park is right next to the Shenzhen Window of the World theme park. That’s essentially the same thing as Splendid China, with its mini versions of Chinese relics and tourist destinations, but with the world as a whole. There, you can see a small Louvre Museum, Machu Picchu, and the like. This seemed really cool as well, but is full of places that I either have seen in person or plan to in the future. It seemed like less of a cultural experience and more of a novelty place to go, more for Chinese who want to be more worldly but don’t necessarily have the money or the time to go. Especially because of the Chinese Folk Villages, I thought Splendid China was the better choice.
Tips for Visiting Shenzhen’s Splendid China
I went during the October 1 Chinese National Holiday, so I knew there would be a lot of people. In addition, the weather was scorching hot – similar to Southeast Asia!
Take the Shenzhen subway
The Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) stop on the subway takes you directly to the entrance! Just take Line 1 and go out Exit D. You’ll see a small sign on the way, but it’s just a couple minutes to walk from there.
Bring lots of water and a hat
Between April and November, the weather in Shenzhen is killer. You’ll sweat like a pig, and the sun is really strong! Bring along enough water – or buy it in the park where it costs ¥8 a bottle (500mL)! You should see lots of street vendors selling hats for just ¥10, though those don’t really block the sun out as much as they should.
Be prepared to use WeChat Pay or Cash – not Alipay
The other thing is that the vendors inside the park will all take WeChat pay, but not always Alipay. If you’re a regular Alipay user, just be aware that you might need to bring cash.
Buy tickets through the machines
They’re to the left of the staffed lines, but they’re quicker. Tickets are ¥200 each (¥100 for children and seniors), and you can pay with your phone or bank card.
Rent a buggy!
Should you so choose, Splendid China has buggies for rent! They’re a bit like motorized chairs that fit two people in them, so if you have an odd number of people it might be a problem. Still, this would be a good choice if it’s really hot outside, or for some reason you have trouble walking! There are a few places that have only stairs, but the majority of the park is accessible.
Turn left first, then go right
When you first go in, the left side leads you to Splendid China, and the right leads you to the Chinese Folk Villages. While you can definitely turn right, as I did, most of the performances there are at noon or in the afternoon. If you arrive in the morning, spend that time looking at the mini version of awesome places around the country, and then see the performances with the villages in the afternoon.
What to See in The Chinese Folk Villages
These are really a unique aspect of the park. You just have to cross the river that they have in the middle of the park to get to the folk villages.
They have short explanations of the traditions of various groups, and examples of their houses, traditional dress, and music!
You might feel a little weird doing it, but the “performers” welcome you to approach them! Chinese people love taking pictures of things so the staff dressed in traditional clothes will be used to photo shoots.
When I was there, they also had a special performance show. It was Legend of the Desert. The typical show is free, and is an absolutely fantastic way to spend a half hour. It was a very lively event! The first part of it was tricks that the performers did with stunts and horseback riding, just like they would have in the olden Chinese days.
The second part of the show was a dramatic story of bandits trying to take over the village and steal the women. It had real explosions and crazy stunts! I think it was a seasonal show, but they should have something at the theater regardless of which day you visit. On holidays the show costs ¥30 to see, but I would still recommend it as it’s less than $5! The only thing is everything is in Chinese, but it’s visual enough that you should still be able to follow the story pretty well if you don’t understand.
What to See in Splendid China
What surprised me the most about the theme park was actually Splendid China. I knew a little bit about the amazing places that you can travel to all around China, but I didn’t have a good idea of exactly where those places were. Splendid China had full miniature models of so many places and full English explanations of where they were. It was almost like visiting the whole country in a day!
[Recommended Read: A Complete Guide to Beijing’s UNESCO Summer Palace (in Pictures)]
The most iconic models, of course, are the ones that China is most famous for. They are the ones that are UNESCO designated and protected, such as the Great Wall of China, Beijing’s Summer Palace, and the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an.
[Recommended Read: The Complete Guide to the UNESCO Great Wall of China at Badaling – in Pictures]
Then, there are the places that really deserve more recognition than that, such as the Stone Forest in Kunming, in the Yunnan Province, and the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan, China. These definitely made me happy that I could visit some other parts of China on my trip, even though my main destination was Hanoi, Vietnam.
The Food in Splendid China and the Chinese Folk Villages
As with any other theme park or tourist attraction, the food is inordinately expensive. I ate here only because of the convenience. In China, you should be able to get a nice, decent meal for ¥25 or less. What I had, some lamb skewers and watermelon chunks, cost ¥10 each!
There are small restaurants in the park that serve all kinds of Asian food. However, you’ll wait a long time if you’re there on a weekend or holiday. You should be able to bring something small for lunch and then can pick up some of the traditional snacks they sell!
Overall the park is a bit overpriced. It’s only about $30, but relatively speaking, that’s a fortune. However, for a one-time visit, I thought it wasn’t half bad! It takes a long time to get through everything, but I definitely enjoy and can recommend it.
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