Monday, 14 September 2015

8D/7N Hainan Itinerary : Day 1

China does not have that many islands off its coast considering its mammoth size. Its largest and most prominent island is Hainan which happens to be the nation's smallest province. By virtue of its geographical location at the southernmost tip of the country, Hainan has a tropical climate  with lots of sun throughout the year. It is commonly dubbed as 'China's Tropical Paradise'. Some even go to the extent of calling it "Hawaii Of The East".
Despite such impressive branding, Hainan has never been on my priority list of places to visit but.... Ron could get a 7 nights free stay in a 4 star resort in Sanya and I was thinking why not?? I just need to buy the plane tickets and I will get to gauge for myself whether Hainan deserves such high accolades. Paradise, Hawaii, or whatever.

This is an account of my 8D/7N Travel in Hainan based on a self-planned itinerary.  I have added some travel tips and photo reviews along the way so do click the links to see more if you are planning a similar trip. If not just feast your eyes. 

After a very long transit in Changi Airport, we were finally on our way to Haikou, the capital city of Hainan. Haikou is located on the northern tip of Hainan but our hotel is located in Sanya which is on the southern end of the island. I have considered all flight options and the cheapest and fastest is still Tiger Airlines. There are a few inconveniences though. 
Firstly we have to make our way to Singapore and board the plane from there. Since our flight to Haikou is at 7.20 am we had to fly into Singapore the night before (last flight from KL to Singapore is 11.05pm. and there are no more flights in between till 6.10am. That's the reason for the very long transit)
Secondly, we still have miles to go when we reach Haikou, the capital city of Hainan. We have to make our way to Sanya which is 288km away.
The plane flew so low and I managed to get a snapshot of Haikou just before Tigerair landed at Meilan International Airport.
I am often grateful for budget airlines like these coz' I don't have to pay a bomb to get to some of the destinations on my travel list.
Meilan International Airport is quite small and there are only a few international planes seen. The adjacent domestic airport is bigger which is not surprising as most tourist visiting Hainan are from Mainland China. This is after all, their "Tropical Paradise". 
We made our way to the train station and we were soon on our way to Sanya. Sanya is actually a more popular destination compared to Haikou as most of Hainan's attractions are located in Sanya.
Click here to know:  How To Take The High Speed Train From Meilan International Airport, Haikou To Sanya
It is tough traveling in Hainan if you can't read Mandarin. It is even tougher if you can't speak the language. In Malaysia people like us are called 'yellow bananas' (a term often used for Malaysian Chinese who can't read or write Mandarin).
When we board the taxi and told the driver to take us to "Eadry Resort", we sounded like aliens to him. I knew about this impending setback and was all prepared with photos, pictures and Chinese prints alongside English words. The problem is we don't read Mandarin and do not know how these places are pronounced in the Chinese language but thank god, our spoken Mandarin is still better than just a smattering of it. 
I did my homework well. I showed him a picture of the hotel with the Chinese prints and he immediately knew where to take us. (I have downloaded photos of  places, streets, restaurants in my itinerary list into my mobile before making the trip)
Our hotel is just 9.2 km from the train station and we paid 25 CNY (RM15) for the  taxi fare which is quite reasonable. (The taxi is metered)

Eadry Resort is conveniently and ideally located in downtown Sanya. It is close to all the places that interest me - market, restaurants, rivers, harbour, sea, beach, hill so that must be reason enough to put up 7 nights here. 
As expected none of the hotel staff speaks English.  More surprising is, none of them speaks Hainanese too, a dialect my husband is well versed in. Anyway we get by with the not so good Mandarin of ours.

We stayed in a suite with river view. It is a spacious room with all the facilities normally provided for by  4 or 5 star hotels.
I especially love the washroom which is spacious and has an unobstructed city and river view when the blind is drawn.
Even though Eadry is in the heart of the city, it has very lovely landscaped gardens within.
Traditional weaving is displayed at the lobby everyday.
There is a beautiful infinity swimming pool on the 3rd floor from where you can also see the skyline of the city.
There is a fish therapy pool adjacent to the swimming pool but I was too busy walking the corners of Sanya, I hardly had time to relax by the poolside. By the way I saw a hotel guest (a Chinese National) spitting inside the elevator right in front of me. During the duration of this travel I saw many more spitting on roads, walkways, bus stops so I didn't feel good about using the pools actually. Who knows how much sputum has gone in to contaminate it?? It was a culture shock to see people with such habits.

By the time we unpacked our things, rested and seeped a cup of coffee, it was almost evening. We took a walk out. Our hotel is just beside Sanya River and the harbour where fishing vessels and boats dock. These vessels are home to some families. It's just like the way some people live in Hong Kong.
The harbour set against the backdrop of high rise and the mountains is quite a spectacular sight.
The calm of Sanya River is among the very few tranquil sights we saw on our first day out.

There is a bridge in Sanya that looks like a snake. I was impressed when I first saw photos of Lovers Bridge so visiting this bridge was one of the items on my itinerary. It is within walking distance from my hotel. 
There are a few bridges across Sanya River and Lovers' Bridge is one of them. It is the only pedestrian bridge and it stands out as it is very unique.
While most bridges are flat or are arched just once, Lovers' Bridge is undulating and waves like a snake.
It joins Sanya He East Road and Sanya He West Road. We walked across and returned just to get a feel of the undulation.
It was getting dark when we exited the bridge. We crossed over to Helping Street which is just opposite the bridge.

We snaked through a few streets, peeped into shops, restaurants and roadside stalls.
It's been a long time since I see anybody chewing betelnut in Malaysia but over here betelnut chewing is very popular. You can easily buy sliced betelnuts readily wrapped in betelnut leaves graced with white lime paste at roadside make-do stalls.
We passed by a noodle stall and ordered a small bowl of noodles to share. We have other plans for dinner but the noodles look so enticing.  Fortunately it was only a small bowl as we find it a tad too salty and rather bland. 

Among the things I'd wanted to do on my first day is to go for a seafood meal. There is a famous place that sells live seafood. It is No 1 Agricultural Products Market at Xinjian Street which springs to life in the evening and which stays open till almost midnight. 
The small stalls lining the outer facade of the market sells a variety of foodstuff including a vast range of preserved seafood.
There is a whole stretch of fruit stalls on the right hand side of the market. Most fruits are commonly seen back home but the mangoes sold here are humongous.
One is enough to feed four or five.
The first floor sells non-food items but I wasn't very keen on this section.
The ground floor sells fresh produce, meat and poultry, fish and all types of seafood.
There's something special about this market. The seafood sold are mostly alive so freshness is almost 100% guaranteed. 
There are so many varieties of shellfish you'll be spoilt for choice. I have never tasted most of them.
They are all kept alive by continual oxygenation of the water.
This is among some of the peculiar seafood from the seas of Hainan.
Lobsters are sold alive.
I bought two of these sea urchins as I have never tasted them before. It's 16CNY for two.
There are many varieties of crabs.
I came here for Hele crabs, which Hainan is famous for. Hele crab is a specialty crab from Hele town in Wanning which is located on the eastern side of Hainan. They usually come with a lot of orange roe or eggs and are superior to other species. I bought two for 80 CNY (RM48). I also bought a bunch of vegetable. 
I am often dubbed the Queen of Hagglers but the noise, the crowd and the chaotic environment got me stupefied and I failed to show my haggling skills that evening. I ended buying seafood that could have cost less. 
Click on video to see how haggling is done at No 1 Agricultural Products Market.
Click on video to see prawns still alive and jumping.
There are also seafood stalls on the left hand side of the market.  Many touts approached us offering to bring us to their restaurants where they'll cook our seafood for a fee.

The narrow street on the left hand side of the market is famous for its restaurants. These restaurants lining Yefeng Xiang Street would cook the seafood purchased at the market for a fee. 
There are about 20 to 30 small restaurants to choose from.
We were influenced by the lure of a tout who promised reasonable cooking fee in a restaurant affiliated to her. After another round of haggling the deal was settled outside the restaurant in a rather modest manner with me having to squat. The proprietor punched her calculator and out came the figure CNY60. That was certainly higher than what the tout promised. Somehow, still in a state of daze, we gave in and settled for the place.
In many Hainan restaurants usage of a set of plate, bowl, teacup and chopsticks will be charged a small fee. I like the way the crockery is wrapped and sealed in transparent plastic. It looks clean. After complaining that the cooking fee was steep, this set of crockery was not charged to us.
That plate of cooked Hele crabs was finally done. I am a crab lover and I would rate this as the best crab I have ever tasted. The flesh is very sweet and the cooking style simply excellent.
Our sea urchins are cooked with eggs and I am glad I got to try this. It's tantalising alright.
The vegetable was well cooked too. We paid close to RM100 for this simple meal. It's not cheap but I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner and the experience of having to haggle twice for a meal is something I'll cherish as part of life experience.

It was dark by the time we finished dinner. The skyline of Sanya appeared totally transformed. As we walked back to our hotel, we were bedazzled by the palette of glittering neon lights that adorns the pitch dark city sky. Lovers' Bridge which we visited before the sunset now sparkles like gemstones. We also see the beauty enhanced as neon lights are reflected on the calm water of  the river.  
The changing colours of Sanya Bridge was also a marvelous spectacle.
A group of ladies is seen line dancing to upbeat music by the river bank and this entertainment is absolutely free for passers-by.
To Sanya City dwellers, the night is still young but we've had a very long and tiring day. I stood at the balcony of my room to catch a last glimpse of the city before retreating to bed.

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1 comment :

Indrianishvi said...

I have read about your vacation experience while in Hainan, it was really fun. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge about holidays.

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