Monday, October 1, 2007

Hainan Island

Hainan Island is located just south of mainland China -- it is the southernmost area of the country, just east of northern Vietnam. It has become the Hawaii of China over the last twenty years as a getaway from the mainland for Chinese tourists. Helen wanted to visit the island even though it was off season and I am always game for exploring new places, especially places with beaches ;-) So we flew from Guangzhou to Sanya, the main tourist city on the island for some R&R.

Below is a picture from the deck of our $32/night room on the fifth floor.

We spent some time on the beach and had a great time. This is where the Russians go -- there were many Russian tourists in Sanya.
One moto-taxi offered to take us wherever we would like for 25 cents. This was our first lesson in the too good to be true category! He took us to a restaurant a few kilometers away that was a bit of a scam and ended up costing us about $30 -- a huge sum in China. Oh well, lesson learned. We have been scammed elsewhere and I will provide details in later entries!
After a couple of restful days on the beach, we went by bus for about two hours in order to reach a city near the center of the island (Wuzishan or something similar) in a fruitless attempt to investigate some minority groups living in the area a few tens of kilometers from the city -- that effort was mostly a bust despite the Lonely Planet guidebook recommendation to do this if you have a Mandarin speaker and hire a guide (we had both but it was mostly a tourist trap). At least our halfway decent motel room was only about $9.00 per night. Some of the kids in the city of perhaps 200 thousand people would just stare at me as if I was the first ever caucasian they saw and I think maybe I was! I always tried to say hello to them. I saw no other caucasians.

Our final stop on the island was the capital and business center, Haikou. They have a great park that just comes alive in the evening!

There was so much activity: tai-chi, music and dance groups, ping pong, badminton, walkers, etc. And the town was really alive in the evening with street stalls, stores open late, people enjoying the man-made lakes. I am beginning to realize what I like most about China compared to other places and that is the downtown ambiance! I just love to walk through these downtowns and see what is around the next corner, to try out the local cafes, shop, people watch, etc. I lived in downtown San Jose, California before in search of something similar. But there is nothing quite like it in the US, for sure. And China feels real safe, even at night.
I am beginning to give up hope on finding good coffee in China. Even when explained in fluent Mandarin, they seem incapable of polluting it with all kinds of milk and sugar. But I am finding some wonderful Chinese pastries with Helen's help.

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