Posts Tagged With: Haikou

China for beginners II: Haikou Hotspots

Exploring Haikou, Hainan´s capital equals coming face to face with a pretty authentic Chinese city-experience. This true Chinese feel seems to be able to emerge thanks to the relatively low number of foreign tourists, thanks to intriguing temples and old town streets contrasting with massive modern shopping malls as well as the allure of exotic cuisine that can be experienced in the myriad of restaurants all around.

Wandering through the port city´s streets, you´ll discover majestic trees to lean on, red lampions to marvel at, and street vendors loudly praising their products. A very popular snack indeed is the humble potato: its sweet variant is served steaming hot on many a street corners and warms and delights at once with its delicious simplicity.

Haikou would only be the first stop of a two-week-long Southern Chinese adventure which would lead me, amongst other outstanding experiences, to (very reluctantly) trying snails in Guangzhou, (delightedly) witnessing a professor from Beijing reciting a handwritten calligraphy- poem, (excitedly) trying Bamboo-Rafting on the Li- River, and (enthusiastically) partying the night through with some Brazilian expats and party-experts in Shenzen.

Haikou was, however, my first point of encounter with quintessential China, which was quite different from the watered-down, stereotyped version of China we can see portrayed in the mainstream media. Some of the highlights of my Haikou- experience included the following:

Exploring the Temple of the Five Lords

The Temple of the Five Lords, also known as the “Temple of the Five Officials” (Haifu Rd, Qiongshan Qu, Haikou Shi, Hainan Sheng, China, 571100) is a memorial shrine to five exiled officials from the Tang and Song dynasties that you´ll find in the southeast of the city. Think gorgeous subtropical vegetation and soft green bamboo plants surrounding bright red Confucian temple structures, intriguing animal figures guarding the roof of picturesque shrines, and marvelous altars cloaked in the smell of incense.

Strolling through the Old town´s quarter

Head to Haikou´s historic neighborhood, one of Hainan´s many “qilou” districts – well-preserved areas that date back through the dynasties to the 13th century. Haikou´s old town quarter features an enticing mix of Chinese and colonial European architecture – wander down the street and you´ll be transported to a completely different world that´s rarely visited by westerners.

Breathe in the strong scent of Chinese medicine being brewed in one of the many arcade shops while marveling at the interesting architecture or watching a painter intently creating a portrait of Mao Tse-Dong. You do know Mao, right – yep, the namesake of the outstanding movie “Mao´s last dancer”. Here, in Hainan´s Zhongshan Road (Zhongshan Road, Qiongshan District, Haikou 570101) you´ll really get a taste for the unique charm of olden-day China!

Living on the wild side: Exploring Haikou´s cuisine

No post about a trip to China could be complete without mentioning its sometimes fabulous, sometimes scary cuisine! Scary why you ask? Well, that once upon a time (or what it nowadays?) monkey´s brains were/ are consumed as a delicacy in the land of the red dragon might just be a rumor.

Truth is, though, that there is a certain traditional dish that I was determined to try when in Hainan, which turned out to be… a chicken´s brain. Like, they literally served me a whole skull including the brain. Which I did not see coming. Like, at all! All the while, I witnessed a rat doing a joyful run and jump through the restaurant. Did I eat that brain? Did I make friends with the rat? No to both. And I am proud to say, I have been a non-meat-eater ever since.

On the plus side, there are some exquisite dishes to be tasted while in Haikou- try Wenchang chicken (free of brain, I think), Jiaji duck or Hele crab at Fule Chicken Restaurant Hainan or – go vegetarian (climate change is real! Just saying) and try some delicious vegetarian dishes of the Szechuan cuisine.

That´s it for now regarding my Chinese travel-tales! What about you? Have you ever been to China? What was your favorite experience or dish while there?


Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

China for beginners: Hainan

Excitement doesn’t even begin to cover what I feel when boarding Air-not-Africa in direction Hainan, China’s only subtropical island paradise. I wonder whether I am slightly high – no wonder, after a very restless night wandering the corridors of Singapore’s Changi Airport I am on a 24-hour sleep deprivation that’s just about to go weird.

Meeting Isabella from Haikou

Fortunately, there’s my new friend Isabella: a very dreamy girl from Haikou, Hainan’s capital city, who smiles non-stop and asks me straight-up whether I am up for a chat. Over the next two or three hours, Isabella shares fascinating insights with me that reveal a lot about some of the challenges that contemporary China and Chinese youngsters specifically are currently facing.

As opposed to most Western young adults, Chinese youth are heavily influenced and formed by their strict parents’ expectations and demands. Isabella, a name the 23-year-old chose for herself to facilitate interactions with foreigners who might struggle with pronouncing the Mandarin name, is no exception. Following her parents’ wishes, she is studying tourism in Singapore despite feeling utterly bored by it. She also hasn’t been able to catch up with her boyfriend in eleven long month due to her parents’ disapproval.

Isabella keeps telling me how hard it still is in modern day China to stand up to your ancestors and to choose the life you really want to live against all protests and odds. We end our surprisingly direct conversation by exchanging addresses and hugging each other goodbye. My first impression of Chinese people in China is definitely a great one! Let´s see if these positive impressions keep coming –  it’s time to set foot on the land of the rising sun.

The land of the rising sun

The people’ s Republic of China is home to over a whopping 1,37 billion people. The little island to the South is subtropical Hainan, one of China’s premier holiday destinations.

Passing the Chinese border control

Ah well, it´s ALMOST time to set foot on the land of the rising sun. First, a border patrol lady is questioning my motives of entering the holy land of consumer product creation. “Are you here for business?”, she asks me in a strict tone of voice. “No, visiting a relative.” , I answer slightly intimidated. “What is your relative doing in China?” At this point, I am inclined to answer with “He is an American spy. ”

I choose not to, however, flying back to Australia without even tasting some authentic dumplings does not sound like the wisest plan. The border patrol lady seems satisfied with the answer I actually give, and so I triumphantly leave the security area, pick up my bags and meet my relative at the exit. Fortunately, he is fluent in Chinese – seeing as out of nowhere, about five over-diligent cab drivers surround us and get a little too close for my liking. Hey, I am used to plenty of space now, living in WA and all! After discussing loudly in screamy Chinese, we get into a cab and drive to the hostel. There´s good and bad news awaiting me there.

haikou taxi

Haikou and a cab. I know it´s not the airport.

First impressions of the Haikou hostel

The good news: an in-house menu with delicious dumplings that I actually manage to eat with chopsticks! The bad news: the toilet is a hole in the ground… Then I remember that this is quite a common thing in Asia, and tell myself to be less biased, for f… sake. Flexibility is key regarding authentic travel experiences, and I plan on sticking to that mantra! The next two days in Haikou are spent discovering some intriguing sights, tasting authentic treats and ….almost eating a brain. Stay tuned for more details on my Haikou adventures! Have you been to China yet? What were your first impressions?

Categories: Reisen, Reiselust- Hungry for travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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