Making Plans For The New Year

By Jane Mountain | January 20, 2014

8,715 km so far.

With Chinese New Year and Tết on the very near horizon, we have had to do some uncharacteristic medium-term planning. Things get crazy in these parts during the Chinese New Year celebrations, especially on the island because Hainan is a popular touristy getaway.

We’re pretty excited to get to experience the celebrations first-hand, but it’s also a little irritating, because finding a bed is tough and prices double for at least four days of the holiday.

Blogs, Boats, and Booking Engines

So today, we did a lot of planning.

The best-laid plans, Haikou, Hainan.

The best-laid plans, Haikou, Hainan.

On a bike tour, figuring out where you’ll be the day after tomorrow is hard enough, let alone figuring out where you’ll be in 10 days. We used three different kinds of maps, three accommodation booking sites, and about 20 different travel blogs to figure out what we wanted to see on the island, where we would ride, and how long the rides would take. It’s an exercise in patience: with the slow internet, with our slow brains, and with each other.

Not the favourite activity for either of us, but we did pretty well today, knocking out a decent itinerary in a few hours.

As things stand now, we’ll spend about a week travelling the island of Hainan, including a few days of beach bumming on a quiet surfer beach a few people have recommended to us. Then we’ll hop on an overnight ferry to Beihai, a couple of days into the New Year festivities. From Beihai to Vietnam is about two days’ ride.

scooters in hainan china

Scooter plague, Haikou, Hainan.

If all goes to plan, we’ll be in Vietnam in plenty of time to meet my parents when they pass through Halong Bay. It’s been a long time since we’ve visited with any of our nearest and dearest, so I am super excited at the thought of seeing my parents, though it will only likely be for a few hours.

This is all predicated on being able to book a ferry ticket for the right night, which we won’t be able to do until we visit the ferry terminal tomorrow. If there’s one thing China really needs to improve, it’s their online booking systems.


We did manage to get out for a little while, hopping on the bus into the centre of town, where we sought Haikou’s one vegetarian restaurant. It was a little hard to find, but after walking around in circles and asking at least 5 people the way, we saw a logo with a stick figure bowing to a tree, and figured we were in the right place.

It was such a relief to have a meal which we suspected didn’t contain any meat or animal juices. We are so grateful for the Buddhist restaurants scattered around the country. They take away all the language difficulties of eating as a vegetarian in a country that loves meat.

Coffee Talk

After lunch, we found Excel Coffee, where we were pleasantly surprised with their great range of beans and their deep knowledge of coffee. The owner’s fluent English was a nice bonus. She told us in detail about the coffee farm they run on Hainan, and the different kinds of roasts they had available. She made us each a sample cup of their Hainan beans while she showed us (and let us sniff test) the varieties she stocks from around the world.

On the island there is a coffee growing tradition, but robusta beans are what has traditionally been grown here. These are great for bulk production and freeze-dried instant coffee, but not so great for coffee connoisseurs. The owners of Excel have imported arabica plants for their plantation and build their business around this more refined plant and product.

Of course, being in Hainan, Stephen opted for the Hainan beans. If Excel is open when we are back in Haikou for New Year he will likely pick up some of their other beans, which are roasted by Taiwan’s top coffee roaster.

If you are looking for Excel, they are on Yusha Lu just across from Starbucks. Yup, in the past year Starbucks opened right across the road from them.

Sad, but true.  

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  2. Comment by Kimberly

    Kimberly January 27, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I’m continuing to enjoy these updates and your perspective on where ever you are in that moment. Thank you!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane January 30, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Thanks Kimberly. We’re continuing to enjoy writing them.

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