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Published: February 26th 2015
Decorated for Chinese New Year's
The island of Hainan has quite a history. What was once a penal colony for political rivals of the Emperor is now a resort get-away for mainland Chinese. This island is nick-named Coconut Island and is noted for its balmy weather even in the winter. Hainan boasts the highest longevity rate of all of China and also has the cleanest air. Considering the deadly smog that blankets much of this huge country, perhaps those two facts might be inter-related.
To go ashore, it was necessary to book a tour to satisfy Chinese Immigration procedures. So we booked the Historical Haikou tour for a half-day overview of the city. Unfortunately during the Cultural Revolution, almost all of the historical monuments and temples were destroyed by the Mao zealots. So we visited what remained of these sites. Kevin, our tour guide, relocated to Hainan from Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia and loves this island living. He said that the pace of life is very laid back and making money is not the only priority for the Hainanese people. Kevin taught himself English by watching TV and listening to western music. I thought he did a pretty good job especially since he had no formal
TOMB OF HAI RUI
The highlight of our tour of Haikou, Hainan
language training. We ended the tour at an amusement park that was packed with families celebrating the lunar holiday. By the looks of the crowd, it doesn’t seem that China’s “one child” policy is being strictly enforced.
Speaking of crowds, we arrived in Hong Kong on the last of the four day New Year festivities. Every street and store and ferry and bus was packed to the gills with visitors. There were block long lines of people waiting to get into the designer stores around the harbor. It must be a banner start to the new year for the likes of Gucci, Pucci and Cartier. It is ironic that many westerners go to China to buy the cheap knock-offs of these name brand items while the Chinese are clamoring for the real thing. Where they get the money for such luxuries is anyone’s guess. We heard there was a four hour wait to get into the Apple store An Apple iPhone is all the rage in Hong Kong.
We went with Suzanne to her favorite local restaurant which featured roast duck…those are the ones you see hanging in the windows of many Chinese restaurants. We then made
NEW YEAR'S WISH TOKENS
Five Officials' Temple locale.
our way to the Ladies Market to pick up silk gifts and then on to the Jade Market for more hard bargaining for some lovely trinkets.
Hong Kong is famous for its nightly laser show. In addition, during the New Year festivities most of the buildings lining the harbor are adorned with intricate light displays. Fortunately our cabin overlooked Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong so we enjoyed a great show. We dined at the outdoor grill with Roxanna, our friend and president of Princeton Tailors of Hong Kong. Roxanna’s company has clients all over the world.
Kowloon is a great place to just wander the back streets and see what turns up. So that is what we did on our second day. There are still alleyways and streets that could be used as sets for an old Charlie Chan movie. For several years China has attempted to curb the habit of spitting and other not so pleasant, at least to us Occidentals, traditions. But it hasn’t made much of an impact, especially on the older generation of Chinese as was amply displayed during lunch at an outdoor restaurant. But the food was good!
We took the Star
WINDOW IN THE FIVE OFFICIALS' TEMPLE
Officials were banished to Hainan during the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD)
Ferry over to Hong Kong just because we like being on boats and you get to see both Kowloon and Hong Kong from the water. We didn’t notice any evidence of the recent protests that closed many of the roads around Central. Victoria Harbor has to be one of the busiest in the world. It is fascinating to watch all the water traffic sharing such a limited amount of space on the ever shrinking harbor. We dined on our balcony to take in the constant parade of ferry boats, ships and dinner boats weaving around each other in a watery dance that sometimes looks more like bumper cars in near misses. Hong Kong is undoubtedly one of the great cities of the world.
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