The Coconut City
Hainan is the smallest and the southernmost province as well as China’s largest tropical island. It was a perfect spot to enjoy a warm weather in November and wrap up my trip before returning to Europe, much colder at this time of a season.
Together with my friend we took a sleeper train all the way from Guangzhou to Haikou. We arrived in the capital of Hainan, early in the morning, happy to finally step out of our compartment after 15 hours! If you are not up for this type of epic journey you can get to Hainan by plane. Both Haikou and Sanya in the south of the island have small airports with regular flights from major Chinese cities and Hong Kong.
Haikou tends to be called the Coconut City for a reason. The streets are full of coconut palm trees so the tropical feel is very much in the air. Booking a room at the Haikou Banana Hostel was a great choice due to its convenient location. Based on a large island called Haidian Dao, it is next to Renmin Avenue with many bus options and round the corner from the Baishamen Park, where you can find a small amusement park and a lake.
Let the adventure commence
I was not thrown into the deep end. This is how I could sum up my first experiences of China.
I was travelling with Marianna, it was easier to laugh off some strange situations, and there was Tomek, familiar with various local ways after living in Zhaoqing for more than a year. Supported by friends I did not find China a challenging destination. Not yet, at least.
A journey from Zhaoqing via Guangzhou to Haikou on the Hainan Island was a part of the trip that concerned me the most from the beginning of planning. Two train journeys in a day with an overnight 12-hour epic odyssey and the fact that the train will be loaded onto a ferry across the sea. Yes.. the adventure was about to start.
Our train to Guangzhou was delayed. How did we know? Well, firstly we could not enter the platform (they are very controlling and strict about it in China) and secondly the sign displayed by my app for “delayed” corresponded with the same sign on the train board.
What a nightmare! We were getting hungry and there was no way we could find any shops or places to eat at the station. Trapped there and surrounded by people, who were constantly staring at us we just had to grin and bear it.
In Guangzhou we had to take a metro to another train station and find a place where we could leave our backpacks for few hours… and quiet frankly that was a bit of a mission. After half an hour we finally found the storage place, which was literally round the corner, as well as the right part of a station where we would be catching our sleeper train in the evening. Relieved and backpack-free we had something to eat and took a metro to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall to do a bit of sightseeing in that area. After few hours we only managed to scratch the surface.
At the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall
A view from the limestone hills
Zhaoqing is not one of those typical places that you would visit when you travel to China. It is situated in Guangdong province, formerly known as Canton and it normally attracts more local visitors from nearby Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other cities. I had my personal agenda and we could say that it was a bit of a social affair. The plan was to bring my friends and myself together. Back in the summer Marianna and I decided to venture out to China and meet up with Tomasz, who has been living there for more than a year now. A stop at Zhaoqing on route to Hainan Island was our mini school reunion.
Once we left Hong Kong behind our adventure in the southern part of China commenced. As soon as we stepped outside Zhaoqing train station all eyes were on us. Everyone was staring! The stories I heard from my friends were true and it was only the beginning… How lucky that I was not on my own!
Zhaoqing University’s Campus
Nothing is easy in China
Are you thinking of going to China or planning already your next adventure? Travelling around China is exciting but can also get challenging and difficult so my advice would be to plan carefully, prepare well and keep these few travel tips in mind before packing your bag and jumping on a plane.
Apply for a visa
China is one of those countries where in majority of cases you cannot get a visa on arrival. If you are planning a trip you will need to apply for a tourist visa before travelling to China. As it might take you some time, do not leave it until last minute and expect that you will be asked to provide a travel itinerary with your accommodation details etc.
“So did you play the game when you were there?” asked my cousin when I told him that I visited Macau in November. A card game, known as Makao and in other countries as Mau Mau or Uno, at least in Polish takes its name directly from the name of a former Portuguese colony in China. So yes, it was a play on words but no, I did not play it and neither tried any gambling while out there. I was only cheeky enough to jump on a shuttle bus provided by one of the casinos to get a ride to closer to the Historic Centre of Macau. I had my route already marked on the map that I picked up at the tourist information office in Hong Kong so I was ready to discover new places and take some photographs.
Ruins of Saint Paul’s Cathedral
My trip to Macau was initially one of those “oh I might as well” since it is less than an hour away from Hong Kong by ferry and TurboJet runs a very frequent and convenient service. It can be a bit bumpy at times so keep it in mind if you normally suffer from motion sickness and do not forget your passport! It is a different country after all.