Days 105-109; Oct. 31st-Nov. 4th; Xuwen,Guangdong-Sanya,Hainan-Xuwen,Guangdong; 23,0670km-23,867km
Not too long ago we were in rain, and fog and deciduous forests. Now, the sun was out in full force. The weather report for Sanya in the south of Hainan Island said to expect highs of 30C degrees (86F). Wonderful.
Breakfast and Dim Sum!
We started off our morning at the bottom tip of Guangdong province where we would be getting the ferry across to Hainan with easily the best breakfast we had had all trip. Guangdong food (aka Cantonese food) is quite popular, both in China but even more so around the world. Before I even came to China, I thought Dim Sum was basically “Chinese Food” but really, even the transliteration Dim Sum isn’t even from mandarin but actually Cantonese, the local dialect of Guangdong province (and a lot of Guangxi too we found).
The breakfast was an elaborate affair. We found a restaurant across the street from our hotel that was serving breakfast and we were quickly seated and served some special tea. Then women with carts would pass by our table and let us pick food items that they were pushing around, marking down what we took on a card at our table. We enjoyed a variety of steamed buns with different fillings, dumplings, rice noodle wraps topped with steamed vegetables, and eggs. It was wonderful and we were both very full afterwards.
What A Difference A Couple Days Can Make
Next, on to the ferry! The ferry to Hainan is a bit of a frustrating affair. We asked at the ticket booth how long until the ferry would leave. He responded “Ma shang“, Soon, but in fact it was over an hour and a half before it took off. The ferries, giant boats that can carry a dozen or more trucks and have several levels, don’t run on a schedule and just leave once they feel they are full enough and there are no boats coming into the dock. So we weren’t leaving the mainland until about 1pm or so and then it was another 90 minutes until arriving in Haikou city on the other side.
Then it was palm trees and open roads from there! We had to make our way through the city, the largest on Hainan, before getting onto the expressway which had no tollbooth, attendants, or police checkpoints, meaning motorcycles can get on (we even saw some cyclists there!).
As the sun was setting we pulled into our hotel, the Horizon Resort and Spa Sanya, in Yalong Bay on the very southern tip of the island. The hotel, which had generously donated 20,000RMB (about $3,500) to Free Lunch for Children, had arranged several press events for us during our visit. So upon our arrival we were greeted by a giant banner introducing our trip and a couple of photographers. We said hello to the PR manager and the general manager before being led to our room.
The door opened up to an amazing 8th floor room with a beachfront view overlooking the whole of the resort grounds. This was going to be a good few days off.
All Work And No Play?
I’m not sure we could necessarily call these days off, though the three days we spent in Sanya were both fun and restful. Our first day there we started off with an informal press conference where a few local online news portals and magazines came by for some photos and a sit down Q&A session. In the afternoon, we had another interview with the provincial paper, the Hainan Daily (海南日报）.
That night, we knew that the PR manager had an event setup for us but we certainly were not expecting what we saw when we drove the bike over to the outdoor beachfront restaurant. Out of the dark I could see a huge group of the hotel’s staff gathered together, around 300 people. I thought it was maybe a pre-shift meeting or something along those lines, but as I drove around to the front of them on the lawn I saw that our banner that had greeted at the front entrance of the hotel was now setup on a stage in front of the beach side buffet and dining area. We took the bike onto the stage and our trip was introduced and then each and every member of staff, from the general manager down to the maintenance and janitorial staff, proceeded to line up and place a donation in a box setup on stage for Free Lunch for Children. The whole thing was unexpected and really amazing. We stood and shook hands with each person saying our thanks after their donation.
The box stayed on stage all night where they had an evening show for the guests eating at the restaurant. After all was said and done, an additional RMB19,700 was raised from the event, RMB10,000 from the staff and the rest from guests. It was very moving and we were very grateful to the Horizon staff for organizing and contributing to the event.
The following two days were not quite as busy but there was still a lot going on. I took the bike to get a maintenance done, including an oil change and switching out our welded together luggage rack for a new one. We also had an interview to do with the Hainan provincial broadcast station.
On our last day, for most of the morning into the afternoon, we did a ride with the local Free Lunch for Children volunteer team, about a dozen of them in all. Unfortunately they all ride bicycles, so our pace was slower than we were used to, but it was a fun event all the same and they had a team in a car recording the whole thing too. We ended the ride at the beachfront in the middle of Sanya city and all had lunch together before we headed back to the hotel.
All Holidays Must Come To An End
We had been mulling over maybe staying one extra day in Sanya and having a proper day off, but two things made us opt against it. The first was that we had another event, a school visit, up in Guangxi province, 800km away, on the 8th of November. We would have enough time to get there with another day off but the second variable effecting our decision was that a typhoon was on it’s way up from the South China Sea, ready to hit land around Hainan. If the water got too choppy, the ferry might shut down and we’d be stuck possibly for even longer.
So it was decided, three days in the “Hawaii of China” would have to do. On the 4th we packed up in the morning, said our goodbyes to the hotel management and took the western route back up the other side of the island.
Making great time to Haikou to catch the ferry, we grabbed dinner near the port and then waited on the boat for a couple hours before it filled up. It was dark as we started the sea crossing back to the mainland. We had more or less managed to stay ahead of the storm and stay dry. That was good news for the crossing, but we probably would have rain to contend with for the next few days as it hit land.
By 8pm, we had come full circle, back at the hotel we had stayed at a few days earlier before crossing to Hainan. It felt almost surreal, a chill in the air as the rain started to come in, looking back to our three days at the beach-side resort and looking forward to our trek back inland to a more crowded, messier, and colder mainland.