A Thoroughly Pleasant Day

By Jane Mountain | January 22, 2014

8,816 km so far.

This morning when we woke up and opened the window, something just felt wrong. At first we couldn’t put our finger on it, but then we realised it was eerily quiet outside. No kids were screaming in the alleyway below our room, no horns were honking in the distance, no youths were yelling in the hostel.


This quiet continued as we made our way out of the city. It wasn’t exactly silent, just not as noisy as usual, which made our morning ride much more pleasurable.

Rural Route

The way out of Haikou is simple, even if it seems to go on and on forever. Just as we were wondering if the urban sprawl would ever end, we turned onto a quiet country road, the S201. This part of the road was lined with plant nurseries, so the pleasant scents of greenery under sprinklers followed us down the road. There were palms, bromeliads, money trees, bamboo palms, and lots of things we didn’t know the names of.

After a while, the plant nurseries disappeared, and the road was lined with rock factories. OK, not exactly rock factories, but those places where they take boulders and, using a giant circular saw, make them into slabs of stone for your flooring and countertops. The strange silence continued, with even the factories, which are very clearly still in business, not in operation today.

We don’t know why this was, but we weren’t complaining.

We spotted a lot of cycle tourists along the route this morning, almost all headed in our direction. I even saw a few female cycle tourists, which was exciting, because usually it’s just a gang of men. I hope these ladies were enjoying themselves as much as I was.

At lunch, we sat with a cycling couple from Fujian, who are headed around the island, or at least down this side of it.

rice tofu green beans lunch china

This lunch spread cost about $5.

They spoke very little English, and you know what our Chinese is like, so we shared smiles and photos rather than conversation.

Cultures Clash

The town of Wenchang, where we think most cyclists stop on their way south, is a cute village built along a canal.

Wenchang canal, Hainan.

Wenchang canal, Hainan.

The main street is where Louis L’Amour meets Lawrence of Arabia. The are cobble stones, wooden facades, uniform wooden signs on the buildings, and arabic flourishes on the windows.

Odd, but beautiful in its own way.

Trivia break: The Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre is located here, where it is expected China’s space station will be launched from.

Before long we were in Qinglan, where the famous Coconut Forest begins. On one hand, it is a very Western-style tourist resort, with pale sandy beaches and upscale hotels.

On the other hand, it is totally Chinese, with thousands of condo units in the process of being built and sold (or not).

Nice-looking place, still under construction in Qinglan, Hainan.

Nice-looking place, still under construction in Qinglan, Hainan.

One development near the beach has created buildings that look similar to cruise ships, and boasts China’s largest waterfall feature and an amusement park. Of course, only the shells of the buildings are in existence so far and we can’t imagine who will be buying up these thousands of units once they are done.

In the shadow of this outrageous development is a dirt road along which the accommodations run from decrepit old row houses to wooden shanties, that look like they are being held up by the piles of garbage and old junk that surrounds them.

A man's home is his... Qinglan, Hainan.

A man’s home is his… Qinglan, Hainan.

We wonder how these places – the condos and the shanties – will look in 10 years. Exactly as they do today, I’d imagine.

The only hotels we could find were upscale and upscaler. Stephen went inside one of the fancier ones for a laugh, and was told the cheapest room was ¥558. That’s 4 or 5 times what we normally pay. The least expensive hotel was still asking ¥238 for a room. Stephen talked the receptionist down to ¥218, but when he tried to go lower, she refused. A man dressed in military garb who was standing at the counter said something to the receptionist which Stephen took to mean “You can give them that price. Call your boss.”

Whatever he said, the receptionist picked up the phone, and in minutes we were checking in at a rate of ¥198! Still a little rich for our budget, but much better.

bikes in a hotel room china

Bikes on the “sofa”, Qinglan.

Plus, the rooms are lovely, and we paid more for a basic campsite in Denmark.

Satisfied, the military man turned to Stephen and said, in English, “Welcome to China,” then walked out.

Our dinner consisted of some barbecued veggies and tofu (delicious), with a side of fresh coconut water, served as it always should be, from inside the coconut.

Happy diner, Qinglan.

Happy diner, Qinglan.

We took a stroll along the beach to cap the evening off, and then were in bed by 8pm.

My kind of end to a long cycling day.  

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