China > Hainan > Haikou
China’s southernmost province, Hainan, is so close to the Malay Peninsula that many Hainanese migrated to this region in the mid-19th to early-20th centuries to seek a better life. They normally ended up in Singapore, but worked their way northward with major concentrations in Selangor and Melaka. On a fine weekend in August 2010, we decided to travel to Haikou and take a look at their ancestral homeland.
Btw, this also my first trip armed with the new Sony NEX 5 camera, with the kit 18-55mm lens attached.
Haikou Meilan International Airport is pleasant, modern and airy.
And our first exposure to this so-called City of Coconuts. Great start!
Uncrowded international airport, which is odd for China.
Past Meilan International Airport perimeter, we are greeted by wide palm-lined roads leading into Haikou metro. Downtown Haikou is just 20km away.
Haikou prides itself as a green city, but streetlights powered by both the sun and the wind look like an overkill.
First sighting of Hainan’s own car, with a little help from Mazda (even the car logo looks a tad like Mazda’s). It’s a Haima (Hainan+Mazda), started off as a joint-venture but is now totally a Hainan concern.
The conspicuous Qiongzhou Bridge, across the Nandu River. Metro Haikou starts at the other end of the bridge.
Downtown Haikou looks modern and clean, and we are impressed. And the cars politely obey the speed limit, are we really in China?
Our hotel is in downtown and pretty easy to find. Soon we are in the elevator where the cellular providers vie to boast their coverage.
In the room, what surprises us is the bed … is that super-king size or what? We have never seen such a huge one!
A caring hotel, nevertheless, playing cards included.
Truly a green city, Haikou is, …
… the humble coconut trees abound.
Yes, there are coconuts everywhere. I guess maintenance must be a handful.
I’ve never thought they’d look this elegant in a city setting.
A major junction, and Haikou has made it look very pleasing. And this is for a city of 800,000+ people.
At the nearby South Asia Plaza, odd translations never fail to bemuse me.
At least they almost manage to get the French supermarket name right.
A tropical island indeed, and we almost feel at home … if only we know Mandarin.
At the corner of Wuzhishan Rd and Yelin Rd, an important discovery – a halal restaurant! Seems to serve Xinjiang and local cuisines, but since it’s fasting month, we’ll return tonight for a feast. [Location at crosshair HERE.]
We duly return at dusk, and the place looks lively as opposed to its drab daytime appearance. Note Chairman Mao next to the Prophet’s Mosque … how quaint.
As usual in China, they have huge photo-menu, and we just select our dishes according to the pictures. It works most of the time, and soon we have mouth-watering Uighur-style lamb rack and local-style spicy fried fresh prawns. Excellent tasty halal chow, just a tad oily.
The wide streets of Haikou is a pleasure to stroll.
It has a laid-back ambience not found in other Chinese cities, and the drivers are more disciplined too. They even stop for pedestrian to cross! If only they can get rid of the irritable honking, and Haikou could’ve been the best city in China.
Clear, wide, shady footpath, uncluttered with goods for sale or bikes. It feels a bit odd to be in a Chinese city with so much personal space, you hardly bump into people.
Across the street I spot a number some people would die for.
Ladies are still the hardworking ones in Haikou (some say in the whole of Hainan).
While the men take things very easy, sometimes too easy!
I notice a crowd on the pavement, thinking it is a medicine man or something (who is always entertaining), but I find something else.
Of course I find this more interesting. I’d love to drive it in Malaysia and swipe those red-light beaters, yellow-box idiots and queue jumpers.
A signpost shows virtually all the attractions around Haikou, nothing truly interesting really. People come to Haikou to go to Sanya, the seaside resort on the south coast, some 3.5hrs drive away. Or the hordes of Malaysians/Singaporeans of Hainanese descent who come to visit their ancestral villages on the east coast, especially around Wenchang.
I have to see the sea, and find it in the newer part of Haikou. Guangdong on mainland China is still 23km to the right. They are deciding whether to build a bridge or a tunnel to the other side, across the Qiongzhou Straits. Must be a kickass bridge if it happens.
Behind me, Binhai Park is actually a little forest.
Deshengsha Rd in the old part of Haikou is interesting. Wealthy Hainanese who made it in Nanyang (Southeast Asia) returned in the 1920s and 30s to build these structures, with architectures they brought from their adopted lands.
Therefore we have here replicas of pre-war buildings still found in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, among others.
Deshengsha Rd is now a pedestrian street, with the ever hardworking Hainanese womenfolk keeping the place spick and span.
The authorities have found it important to restore and preserve these old buildings for tourism. Good on them.
Yes, strolling along Deshengsha Rd is never boring.
Two nights in Haikou, and we leave on a beautiful fine morning. So Haikou, been there, done that!
> THE END