Shenzhen - Bao'an electronics markets made easier

Visiting a few of the the electronics markets in outer Shenzhen and documenting how to do it

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In 2014 the guys from Dangerous Prototypes explored some of the more interesting markets in Shenzhen ( In later years they've also taken some of us (myself included) on bus trips out there. Now that Shenzhen Metro line 11 has been open for a while, various hackers have been exploring these markets unassisted. I'm going to try to make it easier by documenting directions etc here. Unfortunately line 11 is still not in google maps (and google services are not reliable in China anyway) so I'll be using a combination of google and baidu. I don't read, write or speak any asian languages so if I can do this, you can too. See the project logs, I plan to dedicate at least one to each market.

A few words on Line 11.

The wikipedia page has good information that is worth snapshotting (since access can be spotty inside China).  I rode business class at all times to give myself some peace.  It cost me about 24RMB each way from Futian (about 2X) but I always got a seat and often had a carriage to myself.  You can't eat or drink on the train or in the station - since some of the trips are up to an hour, make sure you're comfortable before you head out.  It's quite a long trek from the HQB area to the Bao'an markets, if you're an early riser it's great idea to leave early and arrive around 9:30 when things are just getting started.  That way you spend the time on the train that you couldn't do much else with anyway.  Another option would be to take a hotel in the Bao'an area, I stayed at the airport for one night wasn't cheap but was fine, Zhongtian Meijing Ramada seems like another viable option.

A few words on the last mile.

Getting from a station to a market can be challenging.  As I see it you have five reasonable options - walk, bike, bus, taxi and scooter.  The problem with taxi and scooter is that it might be hard to get back.  I also had a negative experience with a scooter driver (not at one of the markets), the language barrier can make price negotiations hard.  Bus is a fine option, you can use your metro card (or exact change?) to pay, baidu maps will help you determine where to get on and off.  Walk is an ok option as there can be things to see along the way.  Use baidu maps to make sure your path isn't blocked by a 8 lane expressway with no nearby overpass.  Don't expect the walk to be pleasant, these are industrial areas, like anywhere in the world, they're not made for fun.  At least you'll be sure to have somewhere to walk, wide sidewalks seem normal in built up areas of Shenzhen (unlike the US for instance).  

My preference was to bike on mobike.  Download the mobike app and get yourself say 20 RMB of credit (enough for 20 x 30 mins rides at time of writing).  There are plenty of youtube videos on how to use mobike.  Don't expect the ride to be particularly safe or pleasant but it should be fun and exciting.  Just remember to be clear about where you are riding and watch out for where others are riding/walking.  Like most of the world, people don't want to strike or cause inconvenience to each other, you'll need to be assertive and alert to maintain your space on the road/path though.  Mobike has a nice little basket on the front for your backpack too.

A few words on supplies

I found finding food around the markets a little challenging but that might just be me.  I anticipated this and brought a few cartons of granola/muesli bars with me from home.  These were helpful in getting me an hour or two longer until I could get back to a more built up area with established restaurants.  If you're comfortable with street food you'll find some but most people are eating at their stalls from food they brought with them or had delivered.  Whatever you do, please be sensitive to local culture and don't walk around eating and drinking.  I tended to head outside and squatted somewhere out of the way to consume my drinks and snacks.  You'll find water for sale either in the market or nearby, bringing a water bottle is a good idea but don't expect to be able to refill it except from another water bottle (I kept a 10l bottle in my apartment room).  

Pick up a usb backup battery in Shenzhen when you arrive - there's something about the busy nature of the cell networks in Shenzhen that seems to halve the battery life on phones.  You'll see lots of people with their phones tethered to a battery in their pocket by the end of the day.  Manage you battery life carefully, you don't want to end up in a remote market with no battery left to find...

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  • SEG Nanshan

    TomKeddie01/13/2019 at 12:46 0 comments

    English NameSEG Electronics Market (Nanshan)
    Chinese Name赛格电子市场
    Google Maps link
    Baidu Maps link
    Subway Station南山 (exit E2)

    I was interested in this market because the main SEG plaza in HQB is an interesting mix of stuff.  It turns out to be another disappointment, it's a thriving market for PCs and consumer goods, not what I was looking for.  The top floor is filled with optometrists.

  • Depp/Depu

    TomKeddie01/13/2019 at 12:16 0 comments

    English NameDepp Electronic City
    Chinese Name德普沙井电子城
    Google Maps link
    Baidu Maps link
    Subway Station马安山 (exit C)

    This is by far the best market I know of.  It's huge and has a facinating collection of parts, tools and supplies.  I did two visits out here on this trip, once by bike, once by bus - I prefered the bike.  The bus stops are both decent walks at either end.  I took the e33 express bus which seemed to puzzle the driver as the cost is fixed (10RMB), not cheap and I only travelled two stops.  I've included both the bus and bike maps below.

    Since I first visited this market the car park has been sold to residential development and it's surrounded by apartments towers.  It's not hard to imagine this market moving further out a some point.  The photo shows the main building and a smaller supplies building.  The supplies building is also worth a visit for stuff like packing, anti-static apparel etc.  The first and second floors of the main building are enormous and loaded with great things to see.  The third floor is PCs and pos terminals, worth a quick look.  You can see the scale of the place in the photos of the maps, each small booth is about 6'x12'.

  • Shenguan Electron Square

    TomKeddie01/13/2019 at 12:02 0 comments

    English NameShenguan Electron Square
    Chinese Name深莞电子广场
    Google Maps link
    Baidu Maps link
    Subway Station松岗 (exit D)

    I'm not going to spend long on this one, it's not worth visiting.  I biked for about 20 mins each way and spent 10 mins in the market.  It's mostly a pc and consumer goods market.  It had a sad feel and felt like it may close some day,  The power was off to the escalators (to save $ presumably) and I didn't get a smile out of anyone in the place.  Not many customers around either.  The top floor was empty and access blocked.

    In any project it's important to document failures and successes, this was a failure for me.

  • Yihua

    TomKeddie01/02/2019 at 00:05 0 comments

    English NameYihua Electron Square
    Chinese Name益华电子广场
    Google Maps link
    Baidu Maps link
    Subway Station后亭站 (exit B)

    The first market I'm going to visit is Yihua.  This is a good one to start with because it is only 800m walk from the subway, no taxis/buses/bicycles to navigate.  There is also a KFC attached if you like such things.

    Yihua has 3 floors, the first two are interesting, the top floor is PCs, printers and motherboards - these are the same the world across but probably worth a quick walk through.

    The walk from the station is fine but like anywhere in the world, walking along an 8 lane expressway isn't that pleasant (noisy and polluted). Consider a mobike to make the journey short and painless.  There is plenty of sidewalk to bike/walk on and I found there were plenty of bikes at both the station and market but ymmv.

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Sung Dz-da wrote 01/23/2019 at 19:24 point

Thanks for posting this incredible information. I am an indigenous Chinese and I used to love the electronics markets. These markets are scattered all over the country (not only in Schenzhen), and you are invited to explore others as well. Some well-known locations include Beijing, Harbin, and Shanghai.

As it is known to some, the markets are declining - They are still a good choice for pastime, and by visiting these places you can get an idea about the options available for you to realize your own design. However if you already have a specific part # in mind, it is often better to shop for it online.

Another important resource in China for hobbyists is second-hand components. For example, you can get used telecom/medical/industrial parts. If you can find used rubidium clocks on eBay, they probably all come from China.

A note on the specifics - It is perfectly acceptable to walk around in public with food in your hand. As for mobile communication, it is likely the case that your phone/plan will be incompatible with Chinese carriers. I would recommend to continue using your home carrier for 2G and just carry an extra hotspot device for Internet. It would also help if you have a world phone with dual sim slots.

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Mike Szczys wrote 01/21/2019 at 17:57 point

I loved reading (and looking at pictures) through all of this. Thanks for posting! Insight on the travel, finding food, and managing smartphone battery is the kind of detail I crave on these trip recaps, good stuff!

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