In a series of weekly features, City Plus looks at destinations for weekend breaks out of Hong Kong and gives you a handy guide on what to expect, what to do and what to pay. This week, it's Shenzhen. Why Shenzhen? Because Shenzhen, for all its faults, is a modern marvel. About 20 years ago it was a fishing village. Now, it has morphed into a brash, ugly and intoxicating jumble of hi-tech high-rises and neon, sprawling forever further outwards into the polluted fug of Guangdong. Few cities anywhere in the world have risen out of nothing in such a short space of time. Few cities have done so with such an apparent lack of urban planning and taste. It is a scary and exhilarating place, where everyone seems to be trying to make a quick yuan and where you feel you are never more than an inch away from getting mugged or fleeced out of a large sum of money - and all this fun is only minutes away by train. Urban myths abound in Hong Kong of people being stabbed with HIV-infected syringes or being knocked unconscious and robbed after having poisonous smoke blown into their faces from a stranger's cigarette. The stories are nothing more than myths and most people you meet are disarmingly friendly - but the stories reflect what a frighteningly different place Shenzhen is for Hongkongers. They also reflect a subconscious fear that maybe one day this delinquent, rowdy juvenile on its doorstep will somehow swallow up Hong Kong's wealth and prosperity. What's there to see and do? Lowu Commercial City is the five-storey shopping centre that tai tai's and expatriate housewives head to in droves, usually on day trips from Hong Kong. They arrive armed with large shopping trolleys to fill up with bargains and when you see what is available you will soon realise why. Here, you can have curtains made to measure and pictures framed in a day for a fraction of what it would cost in Hong Kong. Everyone who has been has a tip for shopping in Lowu Commercial City (mine is that the best place for electronics and videos is Hong Jia Hong Jia Market, unit 13/25 on the fifth floor), but for a comprehensive guide to plan your visit, a good investment is the Shop In Shenzhen Insider's Guide by Ellen McNally ( www.shopinshenzhen.com ). Well worth a visit too is Dafen Art Village, a 35 yuan taxi ride from the border, you can buy a reproduction Van Gough for 25 yuan or have your face painted on to a famous portrait for 500 yuan. More than 6,000 artists work in modern-day garrets, apartment blocks above the village's 600 galleries - and visitors who hunt around can find some extraordinarily high-quality work available at ludicrously low prices. Hundreds of thousands of reproductions from here are shipped to the United States and Europe every year. You can buy them at cost price. Walk up the steep flights of stairs beside the galleries into the apartment blocks and you can watch the masterpieces taking shape in workshops, where one artist can turn out 10 oil paintings a day. Where should I stay? There are cheaper options, but the most comfortable and convenient stop is the Shangri-La, a five-minute walk from the Lo Wu railway station and directly in front of you as you leave the station. Rooms cost from 1,200 yuan a night upwards at walk-in rates. If you are on a budget and looking for somewhere even closer to the border, try the Railway Hotel, where rooms with laptop internet connections cost about 250 yuan a night upwards. What shouldn't I miss? Eat your lunch or dinner at the cavernous Chinese restaurant on the fourth floor of the Railway Hotel. In this huge dining space you can enjoy a veritable feast for less than 50 yuan a head, while drinking in the extraordinary scene of table after table of older (and in some cases some distinctly elderly) Hong Kong men with their young mainland girlfriends and wives. What piece of advice would you give to a first-timer? Prepare to be hassled. The Lowu Commercial City shopping centre can be particularly overwhelming with persistent traders and DVD touts, who last week were offering highly dubious pirated copies of Spiderman 3, a movie that will not be released to cinemas until next year. Be firm and polite and avoid aggravation by giving the appearance of knowing exactly where you are going, even if you do not. At night it is best to stay in your hotel or take a taxi to wherever you are going. Venture out after sunset and the moment you step onto the pavement you will be mercilessly hounded by the purveyors of unsavoury and illegal personal services. What will a weekend there cost me? With only the cost of a half-hour train ride to Lo Wu, Shenzhen is the cheapest option for a weekend break out of Hong Kong. Expatriates need to bear in mind the cost of a Chinese visa if they do not have one, and with tit-for-tat price rises these now cost HK$500 upwards for single entry for British and American citizens. Best value is to opt for a six-month multiple entry visa and order it at least four days before travelling to avoid punitive emergency visa surcharges.