THE island province of Hainan is located at the southernmost point in China. It is best known as a holiday island because of its tropical climate (no winter), forested and mountainous interiors, and beach resorts. There was not much I knew about Hainan when I decided to join a group on a Philippine Airlines (PAL) chartered flight to the island led by Allen Liaw of China Tee Travel International Service. However Hainan sounded familiar because of its famous Hainanese chicken rice which I love.
It was a short two-and-a- half-hour flight from Manila to Haikou, the capital city located at the northern coast of the province. Originally a simple port city, it has evolved to become the political, economic, cultural and transportation center of Hainan. It is also called the “Coconut City” because coconuts and all else that come from coconuts are all over the place.
Things to do in Haikou...
• Spend time at the Hainan Provincial Museum to get a feel of the region’s ethnic culture and history. It has a collection of about 25,000 cultural relics in 21 pavilions and nine permanent exhibitions. Very interesting and intriguing as well!
• Visit the complex called the Temple of the Five Lords built in honor of the five famous ministers in history - Li Deyu, Li Gang, Zhao Ding, Li Guang and Hu Quan - and see the historic halls and the life-sized statues. A standout in the premises is the Five Lords Ancestral Hall, a red two-storey wooden structure erected during the Ming Dynasty and considered as the very first building in Hainan. We could feel the sense of peace and tranquility in the ancient architectural complex.
• Take a leisurely stroll around Movie Town Haikou, a movie and TV filming location which recreates the streets (in the 1930’s and 1940’s) of the four major cities along the Yangtze River Valley - Chongqing, Wuhan, Nanjing and Shanghai. The buildings in the premises are faithful reproductions of the old structures based on photos of that bygone era. It was a walk back in time which made us feel nostalgic and sentimental.
Other Haikou come-ons are its hot springs for fitness enthusiasts, the agri-tours for nature lovers, the food tours for foodies, the shopping tours for shopaholics and the wedding package for the romantics.
A Hainan trip is not complete without a sojourn to the coastal city of Sanya dubbed as China’s Hawaii. And so we took the more than two-hour ride to this popular destination at the southern end of the island.
With its long stretches of beach, tropical rainforests and upscale hotels, Sanya has become a favorite tourist stop. It has the distinction of having hosted the Miss World beauty pageant eight times, the most recent one was a few months back when Miss Mexico Vanessa Ponce de Leon was crowned Miss World 2018.
Sanya “Must Do’s”
• First off is a visit to the Guanyin of the South Sea of China near the Nanshan Temple. Main focus is the 108-meter statue of the goddess Guanyin with its three faces - one facing inland and two facing the South China Sea. It is among the highest statues in the world and took all of six years to build. Its height is significant because the number 108 is considered to be very auspicious and fraught with important sacred meaning in the Buddhist culture. A very impressive landmark!
• Not to be missed is an adventure at the Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park. It is a challenging hike with paths winding around hillside forests dotted with colorful ladders but reaching the 400-meter-long Seaview Glass Skywalk and walking under its “rainbow gate” is well worth the effort. It is the first glass-bottomed skyway/bridge in the Hainan province. Made of tempered glass 30 millimeters thick, it can support loads up to 100 kilograms per square meter. The glass viewing platforms offer a magnificent panorama of Yalong Bay and its surrounding lush landscapes.
• For evening entertainment there’s the Las Vegas type show which features the most amazing contortionist duo this side of the globe. Dancers and acrobats are very much part of the repertoire.
• For the water sports enthusiasts, there’s a complete menu of water activites because the whole city is related to the sea. For the hikers and mountaineers, there are lots of choices too.
The Hainan Provincial Tourism Development Commission is actively promoting the attractions of their island province for it to be known as Southern China’s key center for tourism.