A longish life misspent wandering the world has taught us that visits to some tourist attractions start well and go downhill while some have a dodgy start but improve from there on. Our visit to Evergreen World did not start auspiciously.
To start with, we discovered that our bus of choice did not start where we had expected. Shenzhen Bus Company and we had basically different views on geography. But then, as usual, within five minutes, another bus came along with the promise of going to Evergreen World.
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This was the 275, a decidedly clunky example of its breed, no air-conditioning and wooden seats which appeared to have been especially hardened for our journey. But we resolutely pressed on. Nothing would stop us from informing our reader. So, having handed over our $3 and extracted a promise from the conductress that she would tell us when we had arrived, we settled back to take in the passing parade.
The bus passed through Nanshan, surely some of the best and most prosperous surroundings that the city has to offer. But then, as we approached the area at the back of Shekou, things started to deteriorate. The road got dustier; the housing got slummier, large yards with containers stacked seven up started to appear. Whole mountainsides had been quarried away. Then, just as the subtle scent of garbage wafted past our noses from the Nanshan garbage tip, we turned sharply into a side street and started to drive past some mango plantations, which climbed steeply up what remained of the mountain after quarrying. Probably the only promising bit, we thought to ourselves and, since the shuddering of the bus had woken up our old war wound, we made to stand up. Not yet, motioned the conductress, so we sat down. Eventually after ten more minutes or so we turned into a dusty lot, set amongst slums, which went by the attractive name of Moonlight Bay. This was clearly the end of the line, and in more ways than one.
So what about Evergreen World, we asked the conductress. Back that way about 3 miles, she said. But you said you'd tell us, we said plaintively. Yes, but you looked like you were firmly ensconced in your book…
So, after a full and frank exchange of views, we were back on the bus with firm instructions to the driver to put us off at Evergreen World.
First impressions: a long walk through quite pleasant mango plantations up a hill to the gates of the resort. You could see that when the resort had first been established it had been in the countryside, a long way out of town, with views over the Pearl River Estuary. But in the meantime. There were several viewpoints that once must have been beautiful, but now, once past the greenery of the mangoes, looked out over stacks of containers, port cranes, two power stations, at least one half-demolished island and reclamation sites pushing deeper and deeper into the great river.
There was also a feeling that the main business of the resort could well be assignations of the romantic type, always useful in a town where living together without bothering with marriage is increasingly the norm. Signs above the path promised Much Romantic and Much Lovelines. Villas lined the road.
But as we got closer to the gates, things started to improve. The greenery got thicker and the viewpoints less regular and vistas turned back up the mountain. Family groups started to appear in large numbers. Sculpture started to materialise, the work of a local artist, Lin Meiguang, who works in waste materials. Three water buffaloes appeared, all made of aluminium cans. The buffalo made from San Miguel beer cans appeared to be a special work of love. But then suddenly, his masterpiece: up the mountain snaked two enormous dragons with flashing scales made of 30, 000 used CDs. Brilliant! We were starting to enjoy ourselves.
At the gate. Would we or wouldn't we part with $40 to see what went on inside? You see we'd got this far and it still wasn't clear what actually happened in Evergreen World. But once inside it suddenly became clear. This was a classic Chinese Pleasure Park, a place for families to come, take in some low level entertainment, eat at restaurants, take in the greenery and enjoy themselves.
And the families were doing just that in droves. We started out at a performance where we were taught Chinese sign language, which was fun as far as it went. But when the Evergreen Resort song started and everybody was asked to join in, we found it a bit Butlin and moved on. Moved on to a potter at his wheel, surrounded by fascinated kids. We poked around his pots for a bit which seemed very good, and then to an amphitheatre where a girl band was pumping out, We decided to beat a retreat from the possibility of having to join in once more. Past the fishing lake, a number of anglers were enjoying themselves and there even seemed to be the odd fish in their baskets. We measured the number of caught fish against our past fishing performance and decided that $100 could be better spent than here. Through the butterfly farm. It is not well known, but South China is a wonderland of butterflies and here, even out of season, we had to fight through clouds of brightly coloured gossamer wings.
But then to the highlight of the park, the Rainforest Gully. Actually we almost missed it. What drew our attention to the well-hidden entry was vapour emanating from a misting machine. Now this was March, the time of year that humidity climbs suddenly into the high 90s and they needed a misting machine? So we walked down the wooden walkway, over suspension bridges, and soon we were in another world. We walked past large displays of carnivorous plants and massed bromeliads. An aquarium artfully placed in the rocks exhibited small sharks, which circled ominously over our heads. Soon the sweat was pouring from our bodies. Then into a small menagerie of frogs and other jungle creatures, including rather strangely a rat running a maze. The blurb explaining rats, mazes and their intimate relationship, was introduced by none other than Mickey Mouse, or, in Chinese, Mickey Rat no difference between them in Chinese. Then through a gateway announcing Jurassic Park: Dinosaurs, raptors, T Rex behind every tree; fortunately, unlike their namesakes in the movie, the DNA didn't appear to have pinged, causing us to breathe a sigh of relief. All the while, the humidity was rising until suddenly we saw a sign announcing rain ahead and a man handing out brightly coloured umbrellas. We opened the umbrella and immediately it started to rain, lightly at first, but soon in torrents. The misting system had formed its own artificial rain, which fell on palms, bromeliads and trees covered in bright black fungus.
After this, we wasted some money in the rainforest shop and took in a meal at the Red House Western Restaurant, named after the famous Shanghai Restaurant, OK but not brilliant. There are also several Chinese restaurants.
And then we found the 369 bus, fully sprung and air-conditioned, at the gate, and went home.
Hotel rooms and villas are also available at Evergreen Resort.
Address: 1 Qing Qing St, Moonlight Bay, Nanshan District.
Open 9A. M. To 9P.M.
Buses 42, 210, 350, 369
TOMB OF SONG SHAO DI
See the following section on historic Shenzhen.
CHIWAN TIN HAU TEMPLE
See the following section on historic Shenzhen