Homely Hainan

ON THIS DATE three years ago, I was in Hainan, an island province located at the most southernmost tip of China.

According to information provided by the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Hainan Province… Hainan is one of the seven most popular tourist destinations of China… Designated as China’s first ecological demonstration province in 1999, Hainan has six national forest parks and 66 natural preservation zones… Its capital Haikou was named “National Model City of Environmental Protection”, while another city Sanya was named “Top Tourist City of China” and “National Garden City”.

Our flight from Hong Kong to Haikou Meilan International Airport took about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Meilan Airport is one of the eight largest air terminals in China.

It was another hour’s drive to the city centre. On the outskirts lay villages with palm and coconut trees and sugar cane fields. As we moved towards the city, the roads are wide and many constructions of new buildings and residences were underway. I recalled we passed a residential area and the houses reminded me of Putrajaya homes! Not far off another existing residential area boasts of Roman-style buildings with high columns.

Throughout the five-day trip, our delegation visited the Hainan Provincial Museum and Jinxiu Zhebei Embroidery Industry Co. Ltd in Haikou. Separately, members of the group who are golfers had a field day playing at four courses, namely the West Coast Golf Club in Haikou, Boao Dongyu Island Golf Club in Qionghai, Xinglong Oak Forest Golf Club in Wanning and Sun Valley Golf Resort in Sanya.

Rain or shine, golfers kept on swinging at the scenic courses.

Non-golfers visited other places of interests, namely the International Conference Center of Boao Forum for Asia in Qionghai, Xinglong Tropical Garden in Wanning, Tianya Haijiao (The End of the Earth) Scenic Zone and the Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Park in Sanya.

The Hainan Provincial Museum was established in 1984 and relocated to its current venue at Hainan Cultural Park at Guoxing Avenue, Haikou in 2008. The museum, still undergoing expansion, features more than 2 million pieces of cultural relics, mainly the historical relics of the Li and Miao ethnic minorities. The on-going exhibitions then included “Hainan History”, “Hainan Minorities”, “Hainan Intangible Cultural Heritage” and “Hainan Cultural Relics”.

Everyday life in Hainan portrayed at the Hainan Provincial Museum.

Colourful and intricate embroidery works on display at the Jinxiu Zhebei Embroidery Industry Co. Ltd

The International Conference Center of Boao Forum for Asia is located in Qionghai on the east coast and 86 km south of Haikou. Qionghai is the third largest city in the province.

According to facts available online… “The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) was initiated in 1998 by former President of the Philippines Fidel Ramos, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and former Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa. BFA was formally inaugurated in February 2001 and since 2002, Hainan has since become the permanent site of the annual conference. The BFA is a non-government and non-profit international organisation, committed to promoting regional economic integration and bringing Asian countries even closer to their development goals.” The forum has since brought together leaders in government, business and academia to discuss pressing issues of the world.

So we (some of us anyway) felt pretty important to be allowed to stand before the podium on stage… if only to take a snapshot! A member of our delegation refused to be pictured at the podium, not yet anyway, saying his time will come when he represents his country to deliver his all-important speech.

Next we travelled some 70 km south to the city of Wanning and visited Xinglong Tropical Garden located at the foot of Qingmei Hill in Xinglong town. Established in 1957, the tropical garden today plays multifunctional roles, not only as a tourist destination but also dedicated to researches in agriculture technology and environmental protection. It has more than 1,200 types of tropical plants, such as coffee, pepper, cocoa, and dragon trees, as well as rare and exotic species of tropical plants.

Left: A wet day at Xinglong Tropical Garden; Top right: Homely delicacies of bahulu, kuih lapis and kuih koci for tea; Bottom right: With the prized pandan plant from Pak Colin.

There I met Pak Colin, an Indonesian who helps runs the place. He hosted tea for the group with an array of familiar and tasty kuih-muih and fruits, enjoyed with the famous Xinglong coffee. When I told him I’d been unsuccessful in growing pandan (screwpine) in Hong Kong, he graciously spared me some which I managed to get through Chinese customs who viewed my luggage suspiciously!

The next day we continued our journey along the eastern coast and travelled 125 km further south to our final destination, Sanya, popularised in recent years as the venue for the Miss Word finals.

In Sanya, we went to the Tianya Haijiao (The End of the Earth) Scenic Zone, described by the Sanya Tourism Guide Book 2009 as a place where “the sky, the sea, mountains, sandy beaches, rocks and reefs are perfectly harmonious in one unit.” Here, tourists literally flock to see the rocks, as boulders (with Chinese characters carved into some of them) lining the sandy beaches are a major attraction.

Top left: In front of one of the rocks; Bottom left: Coconut drinks are aplenty on the beach to quench one’s thirst  Right: Group picture with the towering 108m tall Guanyin Statue.

The next day we headed to Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Park located within the Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone which is a large scale eco-cultural tourism zone spanning 50sq km. It is a one-of-a-kind and also the largest cultural tourism zone in China and divided into three theme parks (and resorts), the Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Park being one of them.

The construction of the Buddhism Cultural Park began in 1995 and opened to the public in 1998. The many attractions with Buddhism-related themes including peace, harmony and longevity, provides visitors a window into China’s traditional Buddhism culture.

The star attraction has to be the majestic 108m Guanyin Statue with three figures in one standing for peace, wisdom and mercy, on the South Sea. Dubbed “the number one statue project in the world as well as in the century”, it took 6 years to construct and was revealed in 2005.

Scenic Hainan much like Malaysia, has tropical climate, so we had quite a few showers throughout the trip that October.

Thankfully the weather was nice when we watched an open-air stage performance on our first night in Haikou. “Impression Hainan” is an artistic interpretation of Hainan life by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

Impression Hainan

It is a colourful and engaging 70 minutes performance by 250 youths. The show impresses upon the audience what Hainan is all about using natural resources of the coastal resort city as props, including the sea, sandy beaches and coconut trees. Staged against the backdrop of the ocean, the show uses a lot of high-tech lighting and visual effects. It was impressive indeed when the stage turned into a pool of water and later reversed, all dried up within minutes!

The show, along with the warm hospitality accorded by the municipal leaders we met and the interesting places we visited, left quite an impression of this tropical island on the South China Sea.

Happy feet on sandy Hainan beach say it all 🙂