Hainan Island Is Different from the Rest of China
An Island With Great Air that’s Adding Hundreds of Apartments Every Year
For the past four days, I’ve been here at the Haikou Marriott Hotel on the green, lush island of Hainan, at the bottom of China. There is a staggering pace of development here, high rises are being built in hundreds of different places along the beachfront and in the big bustling city of two million. Right across from my hotel, a giant convention center is getting enlarged to three times its current size.
Today, the convention center building site is a mass of steel structures, showing how the undulating roof will cover so many thousands of square feet of meeting space. Lush it is, but like most cities in China it continues to grow and that means very tall buildings.
We were told that nearly all of the apartments along the seafront are purchased by northerners, from Beijing and Shanghai, who enjoy coming to Hainan during vacations to enjoy the clean air and seaside.
There is a staggering number of apartment buildings, and more to come, covered in green netting as they are built. In Haikou, the buildings such as the Communist Party Headquarters are gigantic and impressive, as any one-party state’s offices should be.
We visited Mission Hills Resort, where ten golf courses–180 holes– are ready for players. But we saw no one playing on any of the courses. We did see many workers carefully sweeping the greens and applying pesticides, but no one swinging a club.
I kept wondering where all of these golfers were coming from, but the main impression the visit gives is that many famous American athletes like Kobe Bryant and movie stars like Adrian Brody and Catherine Zeta-Jones have visited here. Their handprints in cement are indented in displays along the road to Movie Town. A huge water park and a faux town called “Movie Town” complete this huge and well-funded resort. Yao Ming’s massive prints are three times anyone else’s hands!
The sets here include ‘1942 Street,’ empty fake storefronts with props like pretend machine guns and bomber jackets that tourists can don and get their photos taken. Shopkeeps were nearly all gazing at their cellphones, bored, watching movies as people passed by strolling the street.
At the Hainan Museum, I got a chance to learn about the Li and the Miao peoples, indigenous tribes who used to live here. They had dioramas showing their primitive ways. There are cultural tourism areas such as the Yangpu Ancient Salt Flats where salt is still harvested from the sea like it was 1200 years ago. Signs boast about the progress the island has made, bringing the local people ‘from absolute deprived to moderately prosperous.’
I wish I could visit the rest of the island, which is served by a high-speed rail line around the entire circle of Hainan. It takes about 3 1/2 hours to circle the whole island, I was told that language barriers are even more of a challenge in the southern towns of Sanya City and Yalong Bay. One of the world’s largest Buddhas is a highlight of Sanya, I was told.
Find out more about Hainan and its exciting FREE VISA program for 59 nations around the world.