As we had just had a good 5 weeks of being really really hot, we thought it would be best to go somewhere in china with a different climate. So we went to the closest part of china to the equator, an island called Hainan. The guide described it as the best sea side resort in China, and described the climate at this time of year as “hot hot hot”. So hot in fact that it is in its low season as even the Chinese don’t really come here when it this hot. An added benefit was that Jethro had somehow become a little ill.
Upon arrival at the airport in Haiku we got the bus to the centre of town, and then found our way to the hostel with help from a local hotel. We checked in and thought that we should go and wonder around in the old part of town and get dinner. This part of town was quite odd. It was apparently French colonial so all the buildings were very different from the usual. They looked quite run down (usual) but also had French fronts (unusual) that did look like they may just be concrete (usual). We jumped in to a restaurant place to get dinner and almost immediately regretted our choice. It was full of people, which we thought was a good sign, but was deafeningly loud and quite expensive. After surviving the restaurant we got up to head back to the hostel to get some sleep. On leaving the restaurant the rain that had happened for the brief time we were inside had been rather heavy. The pavement was just above the hight of the lake that was the rest of the road.
We woke to find that Tom was also Ill. So this was going well. After taking some drugs to stop any emergency toilet dashes, we decided to go to the provincial museum. After taking a bus for about 20 minutes we arrived at the museum that was looking suspiciously unbusy. This is when we realised that it was a Monday, so the museum was closed. So we popped back to the old French bit and found a coffee shop to spend the rest of the day.
The next day we thought we would have another go at the museum. We arrive to find it was open, success! It was a big imposing structure that was pretty impressive. We headed in to the first room which was very sea life orientated and its walls were being used as massive projector screens to make a cool experience. This was all about an achiant shipwreck they had found that had lots of gold and bowls and stuff in.
The rest of the musium was about the history of Hainan. It was very interesting but at times hard to understand what the English translation was trying to say. And a kinda racist bit that describes the indigenous Li people as “simple and unsophisticated” while the mainland Chinese Han people are described as “ingenious and culturally sophisticated”.
After the two days of Haiku, we headed further south to the east coast town of Bo’Ao.
For our day and a half in Bo’Ao we hadn’t really planned on doing much, partly due to still being ill, which was good given there really wasn’t a lot to do besides sit at a windy seaside and in a small coffee shop just off the main road. The town was eerily quiet for China with almost nobody about. It seems that in their low season virtually nobody turns up so the multitude of towing hotel blocks all stand empty as do the beachfront bars and restaurants. They don’t even lower their prices to entice budget travelers to pay a visit.
We had a very nice sunset from a little spur of beach and an unexpected free meal at the hostel courtesy of the boyfriend (we think) of the woman running the hostel. Along with the one other person staying there we were treated to a pair of Hainan style roast chickens that by Chinese standards were positively enormous, not to mention very tasty. After dinner we all moved outside and talked about motorbikes for a while as something of mutual interest. Apparently he does on average around 30,000km a year on his 250cc Suzuki. This is apparently the bike of choice in China. We also said hello to the pet bird whose favourite place to sit was on people’s heads. Sleep would have come easier though if we hadn’t been on the thinnest straw mattresses we’ve seen so far.
For our final accommodation in China we decided to treat ourselves a little by staying in an apartment in Sanya for a couple of days. Being low season there were plenty of discounts so we ended up with a pretty good deal. Finding the place was a bit tricky with the limited directions and not very accurate position on the booking website so we ended up at a posh hotel roughly where we’d narrowd down our search to and got them to phone our hotel for us. They then came and collected us in more or less a stretched golf cart and drove us for about 60 seconds down a side street to where we were meant to be.
Nice apartments sorted we spent most of the next two days wandering around what is apparently Russia’s favourite winter holiday destination. It’s the only place we’ve seen where any second language isn’t English in China. Two afternoons of playing in some pretty sizable waves on the beach was also a welcome change being wet from the sea instead of just sweat. The beach crowds were only harassed once by an overhead police drone, definitely not flown legally by UK standards right above crowd of swimmers, instructing wayward beachgoers to stay inside the designated swimming zones. Normally I’m not in favour of being penned in to fixed areas on a beach but having strayed to the edge of one roped off section at one point I could understand why. The rip currents at the beach were very very strong. Stood up in waist deep water at some points you could only just stay in one place, and swimming you would have to work very hard, as a few people found out whilst getting shouted at by the increasingly frustrated life guard who had to swim out to assist several times.
We departed to spend our final night in China on one last sleeper train to take us to Shenzen on the Hong Kong border. If you are wondering how the sleeper train got us off the island, the answer is that the train gets to the coast, splits onto four sections and goes onto a ferry. All of which makes for an interesting, if slightly time consuming process. The main downside of this unusual transport method was that, to mirror our first internal flight into Beijing that was delayed, our train was also the only other transportation that wasn’t bang on time and we missed our connecting train. Thankfully it didn’t matter in the end as it seemed to be a common problem with a whole waiting room for such events and hourly trains for the last stretch to the border.
So just over six weeks in China are over. It would be very easy to stay the same again and never come close to running out of incredible things to see and do. Still, the world’s a big place so it would almost be rude not to visit other places too. So off to Hong Kong as the stepping stone to Japan to continue our adventure in what we have started to realise is likely to be a very short and very hot feeling year.