30,000 people is a lot to keep all bottled up. People are free to walk in and out, though security are sure to interrogate anyone who doesn't fit the accepted profile. Vehicles all go through paper slips to get in/out.
Security guards circulate, sometimes on bike, sometimes in groups, sometimes marching in step and calling out squadron cheers/communist cheers/something.
The residents are generally very affluent, definitely by Chinese standards. There are sculpted gardens, pathways, and park areas. In fact, moreso than any other residential area in the city
On one hand, it's stifling being here, and knowing what it is. On the other hand... it's great! People really use their "public" spaces here. Late at night the streets can still be full of people playing Go or cards. Kids and cute little dogs are ubiquitous: the family vibe is really pronounced. And it's great that by the rec centre plaza, someone brings a crappy ghetto blaster and plays some sappy canto-waltz music, and couples dance away on the patio. Apparently there's swing dancing on another patio, and it doesn't seem particularly organized.
So in it's way, this place really seems like a strong Community. You could do worse, throwing some rich people together in a Vancouver suburb.
The security dudes all seem pretty nice (esp. to us foreigners?) and are always happy to open the mechanized gate to the school residence for us. I think they're happy to have something to do, since there's so many of them.
And it's not hard to get out of the place. Just outside Yihai Gardens, there's a scrappy little outdoor market which provides a sharp contrast to its neighbour. As of yet i've noticed no animosity between the scenes. Though surely the farmers ain't trying to bust into Yihai.
And Heza and i really enjoy a little eatery just outside the gates, where we can get a full meal plus beer for $1.75. It's the kind of joint where i asked where the washroom was, and the dude grabbed my arm and pulled me to the alley.
Weirdly, it feels pretty natural to walk between the 2 worlds. And i suspect many people feel the same. No doubt there's tons of people who would never slum it the way i like to, but such was life in Van too.