The gleaming manifestation of China's economic miracle, Shenzhen (深圳, Shēnzhèn) has risen from the marshy Pearl River Delta into one of the world's most mega megacities in less time than it took London's St Paul's Cathedral to be built. Millions of migrants have been drawn to its golden gates from the Chinese countryside since the 1980s; now Shenzhen attracts high-flying tech graduates and global corporations.
On the map, Shenzhen might look like it's an extension of Hong Kong, but it's firmly in China territory. In terms of logistics, that means most travelers (including US citizens) need a Chinese visa to visit.
The city's imposing urban sprawl and cloud-piercing towers can make it an overwhelming destination at first.
But the 1,965-foot-high Ping An International Financial Center -- the fourth-tallest building in the world -- provides a helpful landmark, marking the city's Futian central business district. To the west, there's a cluster of theme parks and museums. To the east, you'll find glossy malls, art villages and even some beaches along Mirs Bay.