Hainan – China's tropical island destination

By Bruce Connolly | chinadaily.com.cn | 2017-09-28 07:14

Hainan – China's tropical island destination

Old port area of Haikou 1993. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]

With fascination increasing I wandered through what felt like a significant part of maritime history seemingly frozen in time. Traders competed to show me what they were selling, but there was also a curiosity as to why I was so interested in what to them was just another old area! How could I start to explain what this discovery meant to me?

I could also see modern Haikou starting to rise with financial buildings, hotels and shopping centres. When I was last in Haikou, unfortunately a while ago, the city had transformed into a seemingly vibrant metropolis with sweeping coastal boulevards lined with coconut-palms; sea-fringing parks; beach related tourism while surviving older areas appeared somewhat pedestrian-friendly and at the heart of a history remembering the Maritime Silk Road era.

Reluctantly it was time to leave Haikou, but new discoveries awaited at the very south of the island, for Sanya, now one of China's leading holiday destination, sits close to an area known throughout history as 'The edge of the sky, the rim of the sea' (Tianya Haijiao).

From Haikou East Railway Station, 250 km/hr trains connect with Sanya in 1 hour 22 minutes but in 1993 it was a six-hour bus journey. Following the island's eastern coastline the route quickly lost the capital's semblance of modernity, instead increasingly penetrating tropical forests with a scattering of rice farming and fishing villages fronting a vista of wide, undeveloped sandy beaches.

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