I’ve been in Haikou for two weeks now, and last weekend, I finally went on my first adventure! As you may or may not know, Haikou is a city situated at the northern part of Hainan island. Our excursion was to Wen Chang, a small city just 20 minutes south by high-speed rail.
When you step out of the train station, you will quickly realize that there is absolutely nothing remotely close by. You have to get to the city center first, which is around 10 minutes away by car. We were about to step on a taxi, but then one of our friends told us that the taxis are actually for long-distance travel – for example, taking an hour ride back to Haikou. For short distances, you can take what they told me is the ‘local taxi’: a motorcycle with a seating cart attached, something similar to a tuk tuk.
The ride was really bumpy, and when we went uphill, it felt like the motorcycle wouldn’t carry enough thrust to make it all the way up. And did I mention that the engine is roaring in your ear? It’s not a comfortable ride, but it was an interesting experience.
Speaking of interesting experiences, this entire day in Wen Chang was something very new to me. Wen Chang is probably one of the most undeveloped cities out of all the places I’ve ever been. And when I say undeveloped, I really mean undeveloped. Plenty of cities located in interior BC are very small and don’t have that extravagant ring to it, but you can still see that they use modern technology, and their buildings are pretty nice. In Wen Chang, it’s something completely different.
For the first time in my life, I witnessed people in living in tiny villages way out from the city. Villages where even basic needs, such as water and electricity, seem to be rare. Don’t even think about air conditioning, or computers, or a ‘clean area without pesky insects’. For me, the most amazing part is that Hong Kong isn’t really all that different, if it weren’t for the British invasion. I’ve seen similar housing in Hong Kong as well, although of course a lot more rare in Hong Kong, and there is definitely air conditioning available. And then, to think that China is so big, and there must be so many more of these villages around this country. People have told me before that only 20% of the world’s population is using 80% of the world’s resources, and I never had a problem believing it. But seeing it for myself makes me truly feel and understand this statement.
This village is quite far from the actual city center of Wen Chang. We had to take a 10 minute taxi ride, and then bike for almost an hour before reaching it. Below you can see the railway station in red, the city center in blue, and the the area of the village in green.
Back in the city center, it’s still quite old, but there was enough to entertain us for half a day. The one main street is lined with stores, and runs next to the small creek in the middle of the city.
It looks pretty nice, but you can see that they only refurbished the store fronts to hide the old buildings behind it…
Aside from these kind of retail stores, there were also many stalls selling snacks next to the river. We sat down for afternoon tea, and ordered something they call 清補涼 (qing bu liang) and 炒冰 (stir-fried ice). Both are quite similar, with a mixture of red bean, green bean, mochi, and other various thing combined with a coconut-flavoured base. 清補涼 uses coconut milk, while 炒冰 is coconut milk somehow stirred into almost an ice cream type of thing, except without the creamy-ness to it.
When they started stirring the coconut milk, it was literally just coconut milk in a pot.
Within a few minutes, it started forming into a solid material.
And here, our afternoon snack for the day!
For dinner, we had Wen Chang chicken – how could we not! I didn’t really have many expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised. What really made the dish amazing was the sauce. Of course, the chicken was nice too, with a bit of a sweet taste to it; however, I wouldn’t have been quite as happy without the sauce.
As you can tell, our day was mostly full of food and more food. I don’t think I could last more than a day here in Wen Chang, but at the same time, I’m glad I got this opportunity to see something so foreign to me. You also come to realize that the island of Hainan is quite tiny. With some luck, maybe I’ll get the chance to explore the entire island!