Before I start writing, can I just say a big thank you to all you supporters out there? I finally hit a milestone 100 followers, which I think is pretty awesome. That means 100 people clicked on subscribe through WordPress and devoted themselves to reading my random ramblings. Of course, whether or not you guys read it after you subscribe is a different story, but this isn’t the same as getting a follower on Instagram or Twitter. It doesn’t take much dedication to read 140 words, or scroll through to see pictures. On the other hand, finding even just one person to read your 1000-word journal entry is already quite a feat in itself. 找知音人真的不容易. And there’s 100 of you?! I’m too touched :’)
The second thing I want to say is that I realized I skipped another milestone in my life – my first time on business class, during my flight to Haikou last week. But to be honest, I almost wish it wasn’t on business class, because I just wasted my ‘first’ on a trip that I almost want to call lame. It was a 1-hour flight which I slept through, so I only asked for the starter to my meal rather than enjoy the entire meal. Heck, I didn’t even take my Haagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert!
But the one thing I enjoyed was finally being able to sit in front of the engine, and getting to see the propeller blades. Every time I fly, my view is always either on top of the wing, or looking towards the rear of the engine. This time, I get to watch as air gets sucked into the propeller. (I realize how nerdy this must sound, but I think anybody that knows me wouldn’t expect any less of me anyway).
I also realize that I would get a front-row view if a birdstrike occurs. I’m glad that didn’t happen.
So as I count my days off and start planning my excursions, I realize that I actually only have the next four Sundays for my adventures before I’m due back in Hong Kong. On one hand, I’m really thankful that I can finish my training ASAP, and get back in time for my graduation ceremony. On the other hand, I had just found some interesting things to check out about Hainan, and I wish I had more time to see everything.
Knowing that I don’t have much [free] time left, I made good use of my past three days here. Well, I spent Monday sick in bed, but Tuesday was quite a fruitful day. I just went out and revisited some of the neighbourhoods I had previously passed by on the bus. It’s amazing how people can say “there’s not much to see in this city” – and yes, they’re right in a sense – but at the same time, there’s also so much you can understand about this city.
I started out at my hotel, and took a bus to Jinniuling Park. I had passed by this place on Sunday, and I saw that it occupied a huge green space on the map, so I wanted to check it out for myself. If you’re expecting something ‘wow’ and ‘exciting’, well, sorry to disappoint; it’s just a huge park. In fact, it’s a typical park you would see in North America (something like Minoru Park), but at the same time, not really… The trees are all so tropical!
Some of the more interesting points in here is probably the zoo and this pigeon area. There are also basketball courts, volleyball courts, playgrounds, pagodas (resting areas), and just large spaces for your use.
Outside the park, there’s a public bicycle rental station. I walked right past it, and immediately regretted it afterwards. If you’re serious about ‘seeing’ the entire park, I definitely recommend you rent a bicycle. It would easily take you over an hour to walk the perimeter of this place.
The park is hidden off of this main road, which is clearly in the middle of some crazy development. The entire middle lane is being reserved for some sort of overpass, which I can only guess as to whether it’s a highway (for cars) or a railway (for trains). New buildings were also being erected on either side of the road. There may be nothing but dust for now, but I can imagine this place being a bustling area in a few years’ time.
I had to cross quite a few of these roads – characterized by crazy traffic coming from every direction and no traffic lights to tell you when to go. My best advice is to just look for someone crossing the same way as you and follow them as tightly as possible. They seem to know what they’re doing.
I walked through a small lane off the main road. It’s so immediately different from the previous ongoing development… in fact, you abruptly change from “the next major road” to an old left-behind village. That’s another thing I find so interesting about this city. In Kyoto, it was a beautiful balance of the modern and the ancient. Here in Haikou, it’s coexistence between the old and the new.
At the end of the road, I got to the beautiful residence. You already notice another change in style. Things beyond this point are not ‘developing’, they’re already ‘developed’.
Next to this residence was my actual destination, the Xiuying Fort (秀英炮台). It’s something similar to the fort in Macau – pretty much just an old fort. But apparently, this fort from 1891 was one of the “four famous forts in the late Qing Dynasty”.
Entrance costs 10 RMB, but that’s a small price to pay. Don’t expect too much though; it’s also a very small place with just five cannons, although it’s pretty cool to be able to walk through their tunnels and get right up close to the cannons. Once you head underground, the ceiling is just inches above your head. Even without any pressure of war, you still feel cramped and uncomfortable, and you can only imagine how much worse it must have been in times of real danger.
It’s really weird to have this fort placed where it is. You would expect a fort to be located higher up, so that you can see your enemies coming, but this historic token is already surrounded by skyscrapers of modern day. Of course, I can’t see how it was like 100 years ago, but if you judge by what you see from current day, it seems pretty much useless.
This next part, I traversed on foot for probably an hour. I walked around Binhai Road, which is as developed as this place gets. New buildings are continuously being built along Binhai Road, both for residential and commercial purposes. The nice blue glass building you see on the right side of this panorama picture is Hilton Hotel.
Everything north of Binhai Road is basically residential, except for the cargo port at the very edge of Haikou Bay. Trust me, these apartments look even nicer than the ones in Hong Kong.
Oh yeah, another tip for exploring Haikou – always take the bus, even if it’s for one stop. It’s not the lazy decision. It’s the smart decision. I am someone that likes to move on foot as much as possible, because I feel a lot more liberal to explore wherever my heart takes me. But here in Haikou, the distance between two adjacent bus stops is easily 700 to 1000 m. It was at this point in my adventure that I finally accepted this fact. Instead of marching the straightforward road, I took the bus and saved myself 4 km of walking.
My final two stops for the day were two more parks next to each other at the north side of the city – Binhai Park, and Wanluyuan. There’s an overpass that cuts on top of Binhai Park and connects to the Century Bridge that I saw last time. But instead of seeing it from the north, this time I’m looking at it from the south.
There’s a bridge that connects these two green spaces. This panorama was taken from that bridge, facing south. You can see the city directly in front, Binhai Park to the left, and Wanluyuan to the right.
The parks of Haikou are unlike most of the parks I’ve seen in Hong Kong. I love how there’s so much space for these huge plains of green in China. Even though the air is probably still heavily polluted, being under the beautiful trees makes me feel a lot fresher. The vast area also serves as a great place for piloting RC aircraft, or taking your kite out for a flight.
Finally, after walking through 3 different parks and exploring the ‘newer’ area of Haikou, I decided to call it a day. It’s been a while since I last said this, but my feet were dead tired from the walking – to the point where I actually had to (gasp) sit down! Usually I can just go on forever, but Haikou is just not dense enough for good exploration on foot. The two sides of the road are pretty much the same as you walk along the same street, no matter how long you walk for. When it’s boring, that’s when you start to feel tired, and that’s what happened to me.
(At 1:46 AM, I’m deciding to call today a day too. There’s still another adventure waiting to be recorded, but that will have to wait!)