<A>Hainan Dao Feichang hao!

Written by Apr 23, 2005 14:04
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The thing about Hainan is that it is still virtually native, untouched by the outside world. I am not talking about the crowded beaches and the grandiose hotels that cater to the rich and famous, not to mention the yearly cortege of the annual Miss World contest. That is to be expected when there is a seven mile stretch of pure white leisure indulgence of beach to be reckoned with (Yalong bay). Don&#8217;t let that deter you however; as you can have it all to yourself during the non-peak time which is anytime that does not coincide with China&#8217;s National Holidays.

Maybe I am just cheap, but my favorite hangout is the Dadonghai beach complete with sea trinket hawkers, loud karaoke music and Russian tourists. The &#8220;Sanya blue Sky Youth Hostel&#8221; is the back packer&#8217;s haven. Not only do you get nice clean beds, fresh hot coffee, email, cd burner, you also get a sliver of sea view and countless advice from fellow, tight waded travelers. Unfortunately it&#8217;s hard to find both online and topographically. It is hidden in an alleyway minutes from the beach camouflaged by identical buildings on both sides. Around Dadonghai is a plethora of what I like to call &#8220;dining streets.&#8221; These are just regular streets that turn into outdoor food bazaars at night. You can get fried rice made to order and from countless tables set outside, you can order fish, mutton, chicken wings for grilling as well as hot green peppers and even bananas. Most interesting is the amount of sea creatures they also have lined up for grilling, I never did care for grilled snails.

What really struck me about Hainan is how it completely evolves in front of you as you travel the Haikou-Sanya stretch. On my last trip I literally went from a hot Sunny day, through a cold front that ended in a rainy storm that turned the sky black all in under 4 hours and a couple hundred miles. Haikou is tropical and given to sudden outburst of unfortunate weather, Sanya on the other hand is Sunny all round and given to sudden outbursts of perfect sun worshipping weather. Not being a beach person, I have learned to be a bit more creative on my trips to Hainan. The perfect flat wide stretch of highway is just right for biking while enjoying the coastal view. My itinerary is a bit longer than the sun worshippers&#8217; who are happy to toast their bodies in the sun from daylight to sundown taking coconut sipping breaks every couple of hours or so.

First on my list is a trip to the &#8220;edge of the sky and the rim of the sea&#8221; Tianya Haijiao. The only reason I go there is because it is featured on the now rare to find 2Yuan note. I am also fascinated at the droves of Chinese tourist that go there by the bus load just to have a picture taken in front of some rocks jutting out of the water and some that have very recently painted words scrolled on them. I am sure only the Romans fully appreciate and understand the ruins left behind by their ancestors just as the symbolism of Tianya escapes me but it&#8217;s nice to see how other people spend their vacations. Getting to the &#8220;edge of sky&#8221; takes a bit of effort. It is a bit outside the central Sanya where everything is, approximately 24 Km. It takes an hour to get there by double Decker bus and about half an hour by taxi and that you can only haggle down to 40yuan. Some taxi drivers won&#8217;t even be bothered to go there because it&#8217;s just too much out of their way and too long a stretch to drive. You have to pay about 60 Yuan to enter the carefully constructed park that surrounds the stone monuments. Walking around takes about 2-3 hours around and back.

There is nothing like soaking in a natural hot tub surrounded by tropical plants with nothing but your thoughts and fellow bathers to entertain you. Designed by architectural genius and made for pampering of the body and soul, Sanya is dotted with these &#8220;Spa farms&#8221;. While the Sheraton has its very own spa heaven on premises, the other hotels cooperate with such farms to arrange wonderful discounts for their patrons. I stayed at a mere hostel and they were able to get me in at one of the best spas for a whole day of pampering for just 100 Yuan. That day, I soaked my worries away in the natural hot spring that promised countless minerals to preserve my youth. Every once in a while, a local traditional dance group would serenade us with their local tongues and mesmerize us with the famous &#8220;bamboo dance&#8221; which challenged my coordination. I had to pay about 250yuan for a 1 1/2 hour massage but for what I got, I would have kicked in an extra 500. Incidentally I found out that I can get a pretty good foot rub for 30 minutes and only 20yuan at Xiaodonghai right on the beach. The catch being I would have to endure being harassed by a bunch of very pushy masseurs.

With nothing to do but to worship the sun, Sanya is making up for what it lacks in nightlife with excellent dining options. For a change, it is the local flavors that are more on demand against their foreign compatriots. Along the coast, just 10 minutes from Dadonghai is the famous Fish Street where the dish du jour comes as no surprise. The fun part is you get to pick your fish or sea creature, determine the amount (weight) you want and finally choose the method of cooking. The restaurants closer to the sea are the most popular, which means longer wait. They offer the best view of rooftop tables overlooking the sea and the best two man bands playing the very best of well just about any famous singer you know. The secret to the amazing spicy food Sanya has to offer is in the chefs imported from mainland Sichuan. Bearing their never fail spices and expertise, combine this with fresh sea offerings and; BON APETITE indeed all usually for just under 20 Yuan a dish.

The thing about Hainan is it&#8217;s whatever you want it to be. It can be a diving adventure, bird watching excursion, mountain climbing life changing experience what it cannot be however, is a shopping experience!

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