All Quiet On The Eastern Front

By Stephen | January 23, 2014

8,879 km so far.

It was amazingly quiet when we woke up today in Qinglan. We are in a different China than we have seen for the past four months. The streets are empty, lined with coconut palms, the air isn’t filled with honking horns, and the sky is blue, not grey.

Even though the highway we rode yesterday was relatively quiet, I mapped a route that would keep us off it for almost the entire ride today. We thought it would be nice to ride along the back roads and see what life is like for the locals.

We were immediately thrown into their real life, with single dwelling homes, some small shacks, fields and fields and fields of farmland, countless coconut trees, and a beautiful smooth concrete road to ride on.

The corner store, near Qinglan.

The corner store, near Qinglan.

We were joined by a few scooters, a couple of local buses, and saw about 20 tourist cyclists (as opposed to cycle tourists) out for day rides.

Here A Fish, There A Fish

People were going about their daily lives, which for the most part meant tending to animals or fields. We also rode through huge areas dedicated to fish farming.

We were riding inland from the sea by only a few kilometres the entire day, and the land between us and the sea is a sea of ponds, where the locals raise fish. Some of them were fresh water pools, while others were filled with sea water.

Guard dog on duty, Hainan.

Guard dog on duty, Hainan.

The ride today was almost perfect. The sun was out, but a few clouds kept it from getting too hot, there was hardly any other traffic on the road with us, and it was a beautiful, peaceful ride. We even saw a few exotic birds: one a bright turquoise colour, and three birds with feathers the colour of the red dirt, with large crests and long thin curved beaks that looked perfect for poking into coconuts.

The only thing that could have made the day better? Jane’s health.

The Girl I Love

Although Jane and I ate the same food last night, today she is feeling terrible. Like food poisoning terrible. We suppose this is what she gets for writing her latest Huffington Post article. I don’t know how, but she managed to ride all day, ~65 km, until we reached our hotel. Whenever we stopped to check the map, if I needed a snack, or to stretch our legs, she would immediately feel worse. So, we pushed on without stopping for lunch, which got us to the hotel by 2:30pm.

She then crawled into bed, wrapped herself up, and went to sleep. She spent the whole afternoon like this, as nausea swept over her.

Jane’s note: There was a little more to it than just sleeping and nausea, but I won’t gore you with the details.

I am very conscious of the promise I made to you all that we would go to a hospital if one of us got sick after riding through Fowl Territory a week back, so we are seeing what happens over the next 12 hours. If Jane starts to feel better in the morning we’ll put it down to food poisoning rather than H7N9.

Once A Fishing Village

I went out while Jane was sleeping to check out Boao. The town is freaky.

The main road is completely gentrified, and reminds me of Newport Beach, Coco Beach, or any touristy American seaside town.

The shop fronts are all redone with matching tiles all the way down the road. Every shop has signage in brown and gold, regulated by the local council no doubt, and every shop is very tourist friendly.

Main street, Boao.

Main street, Boao.

But, the remnants of an old way of life are still here, you just have to walk off of the main street to see them. Boao was, once upon a time (which from the look of things was only a few years ago), a sleepy fishing village.

On the side streets, you find single story hutong-like compounds made of grey brick, with tiled roofs and fishing nets drying outside. There are little wooden shacks propped up against the more modern buildings, some used as houses, others as storage areas. Few of these simple dwellings still exist, but enough are here to suggest that this is what the whole town used to be.

They are still lived in, but instead of the sun shining down on them, people now live in the shadows of monstrous apartment buildings. Just like any Chinese city, tens of these 30+ story complexes are rising up where once farm fields and simple homes used to be.

Haikou and Sanya, the two biggest cities on the island, are overrun with tourists – we hear Sanya is particularly bad – so they are now developing towns like Boao and Qinglan, where we were last night.

The people aren’t here yet; the towns are eerily quiet. It’s amazingly peaceful for a Chinese city, and filled with incredibly well appointed complexes with names like Champagne County, most of which appear to be completely empty.

Maybe one day, in a few years, this small town will be bustling and busy with tourists, but for now it still seems to be a sleepy seaside fishing village that has had the strangest, and most unnecessary, facelift.  

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  1. Pingback: Running On Empty | My Five Acres

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