Is Effort Effective?

By Stephen Ewashkiw | January 21, 2014

8,715 km so far.

A recurring lesson in my yoga classes the past year has been “Effort Is Effective.” Today involved a lot of effort, but the results were disappointing.

We are planning on cycling on Hainan for the next 10 days, before heading back the mainland, and riding into Vietnam. Chinese New Year is fast approaching, so we are having to do more planning than we would normally do as Jane explained yesterday.

We have our route laid out for the next two weeks, and as part of this plan we would like to take the ferry from Haikou to Beihei on February 2. This would get us back to shore with only two days’ ride to get to the Vietnamese border. It would also allow us to skip a return visit to Dogtown, aka Leizhou.

Because Hainan is THE main destination for the Chinese during Spring Festival, aka New Year, we wanted to book our ferry ticket today, so that we could secure our berth. There are two travel agents near the hostel and we tried our luck with them.

The first office told us they only did airline tickets, and sent us to the other office. At the second office we were told we had to go to the ferry terminal if we wanted to book tickets. Not a great start, but we were prepared for this. So we got on the bus to the terminal.

On the bus in Haikou.

On the bus in Haikou.

Less Than Zero

The Banana Hostel, where we are staying, is OK, but not the greatest. Definitely nothing like a hip Slovenian hostel.

On our way to the terminal, we thought we’d see if the local 7 Days Inn had rooms for when we plan to be back in Haikou, and how much they will be charging. Everyone jacks up their rates during the holiday, including the chain hotels. The woman working the counter gave the impression she didn’t care at all about helping us, dealt with two other customers while she pretended she was going to do something for us, and eventually we walked out with zero information.

We decided, after this experience, that the hostel would do.

Sign to the Banana Hostel and Pizzeria.

Sign to the Banana Hostel and Pizzeria.

They are friendly, helpful, and able to tell us how much rooms will be (which is double what they are now) – and they have room for us. All points in their favour.

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

At the ferry terminal, a young man in a red sash, which indicated he was some sort of customer service rep, offered us help. He had limited English (but more English than we have Mandarin) and told us we could only book tickets three days in advance, so couldn’t book a berth today. Also, the boat doesn’t run for the entire week of New Year’s celebrations.


He handed us off to another red-sashed helper who had better English, and she confirmed his story. We could only leave before January 30 or after February 4 if we want to go to Beihei. However, the boat to Hai’an runs every day, all day, during the holiday, so we can go back the way we came, hopefully without it taking five hours this time, any day we like.

We are now trying to rearrange our plan. We, in fact, may end up having to go back to Dogtown, which at least would mean we were able to restock on Whole Perfect Foods vegan meats.

At least washing laundry provides immediate measurable results.

At least washing laundry provides immediate measurable results.

All of this running around took 4 hours, and at the end of it our plans had actually been set back. Was the effort worth it? At least now have some answers to our questions. It feels like it was a complete bust, because we have no ferry tickets and can’t move forward as quickly as we would have liked. We are trying to keep in mind that effort often doesn’t produce results today: it’s often just laying the groundwork for future results.


Post Script: For dinner tonight we decided we needed a break from noodles and tofu. But, this being China, and Haikou being a small city (only two million residents), our choices were limited. Enter: Pizza Hut. Yes, seriously, we went to Pizza Hut.

I considered not telling you, because, well, it’s embarrassing. But, you deserve the truth. We wanted something familiar, even if neither of us can remember the last time we ate at a Pizza Hut. I think my last visit was when my Italian friend Alex, who we spent time with on the first few days of our trip so many months ago, came to visit me in London in about 1999.

Jane’s note: The last time I remember eating there was when I worked there for a semester during college.

Pizza Hut is a very different place in China. The restaurant is a proper restaurant, steak was by far the most popular dish. Pizza didn’t really seem to come out of the kitchen very often. Seafood, steak and potatoes were the most common things on tables. We got a pasta and pizza, and when we tried to order a salad we were told it was sold out. The crust was just as we remembered it, and it was, I have to admit, a relief to not be eating noodles with boiled lettuce tonight.

Not our finest eating moment, but after all of our efforts earlier today, we couldn’t bring ourselves to make the effort to find something better.  

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