The Hawaii of China

I apologize for disappearing over these two weeks. There’s been a lot for me to get used to about this city of Haikou, and I’m still in the middle of adapting.

I’ve experienced a lot of first during this period of time. It’s my first business trip on my first real job. It’s my first time living in a hotel for two months, and in the middle of this semi-rural city in China. It’s my first time meeting with many of these topics that I’m learning about in my training course, and the first time doing such hands-on work related to aircraft maintenance.

Two weeks ago, I also met with my first experience on my company’s own flight when I flew to Haikou from Hong Kong. It really helped me understand a long of the frustrations we face as an aircraft operator. Hong Kong Airlines doesn’t always get a bay parking spot because HKG is a super busy airport, so many of our flights are boarded via ramp stairs – including the flight that we took. That particular day was a rainy day, so we were given raincoats. At first, we said we can just carry umbrellas, and then we remembered that it’s not allowed on airport grounds. I used to think that rain isn’t such a big deal on my flight days. Everything is indoors anyway! And now I realize there’s another side to the story.

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After we finished boarding, we were delayed for about another half hour due to weather conditions and air traffic congestion. More things out of our control, but in the end, it’s still the airline that gets blasted for always being delayed. Seeing all these things makes me even more motivated to change things for the better. I do hope that my time here will result in a noticeable difference!

Anyway, I’ve been living in Haikou for two weeks now, and there are a lot of things on my mind. First of all, this is not my first time in Mainland China. I’ve seen Shanghai before, and I’ve also been back to visit relatives in rural China many times before. But Haikou is certainly something new to me. It is urban, but then again, not really that urban. There are supermarkets and malls and Starbucks, but at the same time, it is like a city that is not big enough to really be called a city yet. I think its a pretty boring place to live, but the dynamic and composition of this city makes it interesting to observe.

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The entire province of Hainan is quite tropical, and sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of China”. People say that Hainanese cuisine is a bit more bland compared to other parts of China, as the Chinese usually like to use very heavy sauces and tastes for their food. I think this comes from the fact that a lot of coconuts grow in Hainan, and coconuts don’t really have much taste. But in general, I still think the Chinese use too much oil and salt in their dishes, or at least more than I would like.

Aside from coconuts, people also tell me that mangoes and papayas are good around here. All the tropical fruits. I see them everywhere… not just in supermarkets, but also on the streets. Usually I see mobile food vendors selling cooked food, but selling fruits on their mobile carts seems to be a thing here as well.

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As for meat, there is everything here. Hainan is an island, so of course there’s a ton of seafood to be caught from every direction. We went for a nice local seafood dinner. The streets are lined with seafood vendors that sell just the freshly caught meat, and then you take it into a restaurant which will cook it for you for another fee. I’ve tried something similar before in Zhuhai. Despite having to pay twice, the total bill will still be cheaper than any other seafood feast.

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At the airport training canteen, there’s this one store that makes fresh Chinese ramen in front of your eyes. That’s usually my go-to meal every day at lunch.

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One thing that actually is not famous here, is the Hainanese Chicken that everyone told me to go try in Hainan. That dish actually originates from Malaysia/Singapore, and it’s called “Hainanese Chicken” because its from the south area of the South China Sea, rather than the province of Hainan. Instead, Hainan has their local  文昌雞 “Wen Chang Chicken”, which is really just chicken raised in the area of Wen Chang. I asked people why this seems to be so famous, and most people don’t actually know. It’s probably because the chicken in Wen Chang are free range and they have the entire wilderness to run around. But then to me, that’s just free range chicken. In the end, I still don’t know.

The weather here is so unpredictable. It can be perfectly sunny in the morning, then suddenly rain in the afternoon, and go back to being nice and beautiful in the evening. If it wants to rain, the sky will turn dark super quickly. But you can also see that blue skies are not too far beyond the grey clouds. For example, here’s a tiny patch of blue in the middle of the dark sky.

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The two most common activities I see out on the street is badminton and dancing. There is a park close to my hotel, and when I go out for a run, I always see numerous people playing backyard badminton. They don’t need a court to play – just two rackets and a birdie, and they can rally back and forth for a while. As for dancing, there’s always these people taking over a large public area and either practicing or showing off their moves. And not just in one designated time or place… it’s everywhere.

So there, my first thoughts. It pretty much feels like I’m already done with this city. But I’m here for another 8 weeks or so – plenty of time to dig up more things to talk about!

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