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Hainan, China

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hainan is an island that sits somewhat close to the mainland of China, and is owned by China. Many people compare it to Hawaii for it's beauty and weather. After some disappointing weather in Okinawa, I was ready to have a bit of sunshine on China's very own tropical paradise.

Sanya Hainan River Waterfront

Sunblock was an essential tool in my traveling arsenal for places like this. The sunshine always seems great until you're out in for twenty minutes for more though.

Sanya Hainan Street Vendor

I visited the city of Sanya, which is the second largest city on the island. You can probably already tell from my first two photos that there is a great contrast to many parts of this city. On the main waterfront (not pictured here) there is the beginning of a very expensive development called "Phoenix Island". In addition, while you walk down the main shopping streets, you see prosperity and upscale shopping. However, you don't have to wonder far to see the beginnings of worn down buildings and not so prosperous locals who are making due on what little income they have. I spent my time walking the many streets and extending a smile whenever I could, but in this town it is often met with skepticism and a frown.

Sanya Hainan Downtown

It is clear that not many Westerners visit the island and I'm not sure that it's even encouraged, since there seems to be very few of us walking around the streets. There is a Russian influence which is obvious by some of the businesses and architecture, but I only saw one or two Russians throughout the city. I took a moment to look at some real estate postings in a window while walking down a side street and was immediately approached by two of the business agents who were sitting inside. They seemed very encouraged by my interest in various condo listings and rentals costs, but no matter how hard I tried to explain that I was just looking, they seemed to think that I was ready to buy. This strikes me as funny because in China, no one is allowed to own property, it is only a lease of 70 years (I believe).  I also can't imagine that the Chinese government would allow an American to buy any property and promptly move in.

Sanya Hainan Walking Bridge

There is a large river which runs through the city center. A great winding walking bridge was built from one side to the other, in addition to the regular traffic bridge. There are a number of shots of this bridge in my Flickr photo album which is linked below. It is quite a nice bridge and you can get a better idea of it's length and build from other shots. When I first walked to the other side of the river, I crossed over on the main bridge (seen below). I loved the advertisement of Coca Cola along the bridge and decided to capture a shot of it.

Sanya Hainan Coca Cola Ads on Auto River Bridge

I spent a short time in one of the neighborhood markets. It's always fun watching locals sort through produce, meats and exotic fruits. I was quite surprised at the large amount of raw meat that sat out on non refrigerated wood while the locals picked and choose their cuts. The smell was quite strong and it was common to see beef lying next to fresh vegetables. Many of the local venders encouraged me to buy some fresh produce, but I wasn't in the position to cook during my visit. I did find a vender on the street who had freshly cooked port buns at  about 2 for 50 cents.

Sanya Hainan Fresh Market

There were plenty of large shopping centers that housed much of the familiar items we buy in the U.S. I went inside a local mall, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find anything in my size. I think I've explained in previous posts that the sizes in Asia are much, much smaller than in the U.S. So, an extra large shirt would barely fit after running it through the wash cycle.

Sanya Hainan Street Taylor

In one of the alleys, there was woman sitting on the side of the road with a sewing machine. I wish it was that easy to find someone to do mending in the states. In fact, it is quite common to see many types of street businesses run by someone with just a table and a skill. I always think about how the many governing departments in the U.S. would freak out at someone doing or selling anything on the street without multiple permits, facilities etc.

Sanya Hainan Homeless Man

I was surprised to see the homelessness there. I kept seeing various men sleeping on benches throughout the city. From the strictness that I have seen in China, it also surprises me that the police allow this. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making a judgement, just an observation. I imagine the high cost of real estate and the isolation of the island may have had something to do with it.

Sanya Hainan Local In Traditional Hat

So many people wear hats in Asia to have protection from the sun. I guess they had that figured out long before we did. You will also see many men and women walking with umbrellas open for the same reason. I had to capture this shot of this toddler who was so fascinated with people in the market. He just sat there and stared as the vendors and public picked through baskets of fresh fruit.

Sanya Hainan Toddler Watching Market Shoppers

Overall, I liked the city, itself, but the people were not that friendly. It could be that they were not used to seeing Americans there and were simply shy. Who knows. It was clear that even though costs were cheap in shops and markets, there was an "Local" price and an "American" price. The good news is that the American price was still very cheap and it's usually not necessary to bargain. The photo below is of a lady who caught my attention. She is wearing such a bright and clashing outfit with a shirt that says "Deep Angel..Calvin Klein Jeans", what the heck does that even mean?? She looks way too glum to be wearing hot pink on such a sunny day.

Sanya  Hainan Woman at Bus Stop

There were some interesting back streets and old cafes that were great to encounter. I rarely stay on the beaten path when I travel. Hainan has some beautiful beach areas that rival many of the other tropical islands. However, I have been keeping my beach strolling to a minimum as the sun gets hotter and hotter while I travel south.  Unfortunately, my semi-Irish skin can't take too much and I am saving my dreaded sunburns for a few other islands. This time, it was mainly about the city and the culture.

Sanya Hainan Cafe

As with many of the Asia cities, there is very little in the way of air conditioning in the cafes and shops. You can tell from these two pictures that people seem down in the dumps from the heat, life or whatever. It was rare that  you saw anyone laughing or smiling.

Sanya Hainan Cafe

The sad (and scary) thing is that I witnessed some nasty police brutality that made me a bit uneasy. Of course I have no idea what happened or why, but it drew a crowd. I'm not sure why this island seemed to be so different than the other areas I had been, but you could feel the tension there. Also, the first day we were there, the authorities rounded up all the westerners and kicked us out, no reason, just made us leave. Luckily, it was my last stop in China anyway. If you like to see a bit more of Hainan, there are more shots that you can access HERE in my photo album. Sometimes it's best to use the "Slideshow" function at the top of the gallery.

Sanya Hainan Authorities Capturing Man

You May Also Like: BEIJING or  SHANGHAI


Peter Laurence said...

Hello Luther,

A great series of photos, looking forward to seeing the rest from your trip

Peter L

Tushar said...

A good place to eat out, you have a nice bunch of snaps, i would like see more..
Travel India

Anonymous said...

Happened upon this blog accidentally. Great posts! Thank you for sharing your travels. I feel like I'm at the locations with the photographs, videos and your recollections.

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