■ 21:37 (UTC+08:00), 05 FEB 2006 | CHN BEIJING
■ ITEM FIRST POSTED BEFORE 01 JUL 2011
I just got back from Hainan — in a January 2006 where I seemed to be all over the place. Wasn’t it San Francisco to start things off with, then a little Hebei (especially Kalgan, or Zhangjiakou), and — now, a quick visit to Hainan?
Getting there meant doing something I had only rarely done before — get changed in a car! Leaving home in late January 2006, I had to remove a lot of layers as I went straight into the airport — as in Hainan, it would be super hot, around 30°C! The challenge upon coming back was to put them back on again in the car, as Beijing was miserably cold — single digits only!
Thankfully I didn’t make a toilet rush — my stomach was notoriously fragile. Hainan began for me when I landed at Sanya’s Phoenix International Airport.
In fact, this was a family visit over Chinese New Year, so transport were all arranged. I frankly didn’t like that; I wasn’t even so much as given an own car to drive around with, so it was rather “touristy”. Thankfully the places that were visited weren’t all “100% touristy”!
Happily, no Chinglish!
The scenery was outright grand.
You couldn’t get closer to the sea than this.
Celebrating the Chinese New Year in a very Hainan way!
Of course, once we’d reached our suburban-ish place, it was time to dump our bags (we were staying over at a family friend’s place) and head into downtown Sanya — “that other city” in southern Hainan. (The provincial capital was Haikou, further north.)
I started scratching my head when I saw this. That sure was one corny name — Happiness Gate?
We next went to a nearby park — Luhuitou Park, or “Deer Turning Head Back” Park. There was the usual suspects… either green…
…or the deer itself.
Weirder still: The Rendezvous hotel. It immediately had me thinking about the Mac OS X variant.
And apparently the weirdness was not yet over: Someone was making a carbon copy of Washington, D.C., here in Hainan!
But then you escape downtown Haikou for the rest of the island. And that was exactly what was done in the days ahead, first with a visit to the suburbs, then a day-trip to the center of the island.
I loved the freeways here. You had no toll gates to toy around with: instead you paid your freeway fees when filling up at the petrol stations.
Confusingly, they didn’t switch to non-freeway signs (in color) when we got off.
I remained equally as confused when I saw this… what is this, a PET bottle-carrying van?
I also managed to file this pic under Serious Hainan Chinglish…
And here it was: Hainan ready for the new Year of the Dog.
A day later, it was straight into the heart of the island. We did this as a family friend used to work here — but also because I myself had never been here.
The highways heading there were pretty neat.
I had to tune in on my iPod (what a brilliant addition to the scenery), but I was happy to take the controls, and the wheel, on the return trip headed back to Sanya. Driving at night on an island was something I basically never tried my hands on. It wasn’t scary at all!
Settlements along the highway were pretty well built. This was Xiangshui, which we passed on our way through. You will note, however, that those closer to huge urban hubs — such as Sanya — tend to be better done than those in the rural inlands.
And now it was onto hillier stretches of the highway.
We got stopped — not by a cop, but by this guy! Wha—?
Thankfully, he got out of the way eventually, and survived in one piece (let’s hope). But the hard work was just starting…
Eventually, we made it to this county town known as Baisha, or White Sands if translated character-by-character. They had some seriously weird-looking buildings…
And onwards it was… and the skies weren’t all that blue, all of a sudden.
They were still all about the one-child policy… which to me didn’t really make too much sense. You don’t have this in Switzerland or America!
Villagers in this part of Hainan had to live with only “the basics”. Not your average Beijing house by a long shot…
Obviously the government had it a little better, but they were still fixing something.
I swear I had never seen a weirder pagoda than this one below.
Everywhere around you were posters and signs wishing you a Happy Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, or whatever…
This town seemed stuck back in time — in the 1980s. The design here is just totally weird. But I actually liked that, given how futuristic Beijing looked in comparison…
The local farm, as in where you got your agricultural produce, seemed pretty lively. I didn’t head inside — I wasn’t hungry (plus I wasn’t sure what to get).
Everywhere you looked, it was pretty much all green. Not the same as what you saw from the center of the capital!
Around this time, the family friend found those people who were still there in Hainan — he must have known them when he worked there many decades back. Me, I was just giggling and snapping away pictures. But I did share his feelings: ain’t it good to team up with the old gang, after all these years?
Right after this, we got food, then I took charge of the van as we headed back via the West Freeway to Sanya. And onto more familiar sights the next day.
That’s my PowerBook!
All that was missing was a microphone and the KTV machine (since I heard someone in our gang croon late at night, I thought every room came with one of these. No thanks, I preferred Sun Yanzi on the iPod…)
But amplified human ululations could not on any account beat natur pur — a la the beach. I didn’t take a swim in it — I just looked around.
And to see all of this literally minutes away from my bedroom here in Sanya. Never mind the random bug that made its way in; the views outside just weren’t the same as you saw up in Beijing… ■ ■ ■