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  • Writer's pictureAnja

Hawaii? Hainan? Hawnan? Haiwaii?

Yes, what is it actually? Correct is Hainan. But it is also true that it is called the Hawaii of China. And I think rightly so. In terms of landscape. I haven't been to Hawaii yet, but what I've seen on photos so far: green mountains and sea. Hainan also has green mountains and sea, only the waves are a bit smaller.

Jana and I (Jana is the wife of one of Denny's work colleagues) flew to the south of China for 8 days. If you want to know exactly: here.

Direct flights are only available at impossible times (there in the evening and back in the early morning), so we made a stopover. Still in Changchun at the airport, the German tourist is used to duty free, we wanted to buy some spirits. Our suitcases were already full, so the bottle would have to go in our hand luggage.

In China, however, duty free looks completely different. Instead of perfume from various manufacturers - dried meat. Instead of alcohol - dried meat. Instead of sweets - you might have guessed it - dried meat.

In every conceivable form and packaging, or even unpackaged and ready to eat. We were also unsuccessful at the stopover, again only jerky, this time in the fine gift packaging....

When we arrived in Sanya, we looked for our rental car. If you go to a car rental counter of your choice in Europe, you get the car driven into the airport garage in Sanya. All you have to do is find the rental agent in the garage. It took a while, but finally we had our booked car, the key, our suitcase in the boot and the sports luggage on the back seat. Our tank was only ¼ full, we didn't want to wait for the rental company to fill up, so we quickly made sure that we could return the car with this tank level.

Driving on the southernmost island of China is very relaxing. While you are still allowed to drive 120 km/h on the motorway, you drive 20-40km/h on country roads and in cities. Partly very sensible, because there are lots of scooter, tuktuk, awoshopper and rickshaw drivers here. And with a few exceptions, of course, all without helmets, at least 3 people on the scooter and their noses in their mobile phones. (To reassure you at the beginning, we returned our car without any damage).

Boao (Google)

We spent the first half in Boao.

Starved, we arrived at the hotel, checked in and went to the restaurant. There we were told that they were closed. It was 9:10 pm. The kitchen would be closed, but we could have something delivered to our room. The restaurant lady recommended the delivery app. After we asked her to change our address (it's all in Chinese), she started making calls. Jana almost crawled over the counter to get the lady on her toes, as it was obviously a private call and she made no effort to help us.

Around 22:30 we had our dinner consisting of chips and nuggets in the room, we had made it through the first day.

After the poor dinner, we were looking forward to breakfast! Unfortunately, that was also a flop. The hotel has, contrary to the description on the website and after we had explicitly chosen the hotel, NO western breakfast buffet. Only Chinese undefinable and/ or badly greasy things, not even fruit.

When we asked the staff, they offered us wheat toast and butter, after the first answer was "méiyou" (there's no such thing, we don't have it or simply no). At least the coffee was OK.

After the non-breakfast we went to the reception and gave the hotel a second chance. We wrote them a list of what we would like for breakfast. And there was by far nothing unfeasible. We asked for: fruit, cucumber, tomato, bread, jam and cheese. As a precaution, we bought some dragon fruit at the nearest supermarket (you never know...) and since a beer is also a meal, we stocked up on canned beer.

After the unsuccessful start to the day, at least the wind looked good. It was just enough for the 12 kite and Denny's board, but riding in waves is really exhausting and costs a lot of wind. So I did go back one or two times.

We had our dinner in a restaurant right by the sea. Would you like to guess what we had?

Right. Chinese! There is no international food in the corner, if you leave out Kentucky Fried Chicken here.

We were looking forward to our second breakfast. As Europeans, we are used to being king as a guest, maybe not everywhere, but in a 4* hotel we should expect that. Full of anticipation, we went down to the restaurant, in our mind's eye fruit, cheese, coffee,...

However, there were long faces and empty stomachs, at best discreetly filled ones. No fruit, no cucumber. The restaurant had assigned a waiter to bring things from the buffet to our table. That was not what we wanted, we could do it ourselves. Above all, it was the same food as the day before. The head waiter then brought us another cereal bowl with frozen pizza crumb cheese. That's all they had...

We were very happy about the pitaya we brought with us. At least a few vitamins.

That day we also called the travel agent, or the website where we booked, and complained and cancelled the breakfast for the next few days.

We made the best of our situation and drove further to the north of the island, where we had seen a bay on the map that looked interesting. (Google)

Arrived, got out. As long as you don't look closely, or just stay on the normal paths, the bay looked very nice and there was no rubbish lying around. We had experienced other things on the way here. Unfortunately, it was probably only collected in the "tourist corner". If you go around the corner, there is more rubbish than there are stones.

It's not the first time I've noticed that appearance is more important than reality here in China.

A day later, while exploring where else to kite, we landed in a bay where it didn't smell good. A few minutes later we knew why: a domestic pig had breathed its last here and had been lying in the sun for some time, probably left to its own devices. We had to recover from this shock. There, where we had already eaten one evening, we had good cappuccino and iced coffee.

(unfortunately no breakfast) And for later, the obligatory beer on the beach. But our decision to dine there again was firm. And it was already our last evening in Boao, so it's okay to step on the gas a bit!

Tomorrow we will go to Lingshui in Clear Water Bay.

Dali Waterfalls (Google)

On our way back south, we stopped at a waterfall. I had already been told that Hainan resembles Hawaii, but only now did I really understand what was meant by that. The path to the waterfall winds between mountains and a reservoir. Never before have I seen so many different shades of green. The vegetation can't be described with anything other than "lush"! Now I understand why they always use a machete in the jungle in the movies. I thought it was more cinematic free spirit. But there really is no way through. It's like a wall without any paths. Climatically, it's the tropical house in the zoo. Humid, warm, with birds chirping and drizzle in between.

Lingshui Bay (Google)

When we arrived at our new and second hotel, we asked directly at the reception where we could get something to eat. International food, that is. The answer was: just turn left at the beach, there's a restaurant right there. Unfortunately, there was no restaurant, not even after a 30-minute walk. So we went back to the hotel and ordered a'la carte. Rice, lamb and cauliflower. It was all right, but nothing great. What was great, however, was how the staff treated each other: The first waitress came to us with a Chinese menu. Map. Thanks to the translator, everything works, and we didn't complain. The second waitress, however, made the first one look like a snail in front of everyone. And she was also clearly unfriendly to us, loud and trampy.

The next morning we had an almost good breakfast. We had fruit, eggs, something like jam, two kinds of toast, yeast dumplings and coffee. There was also the indefinable Chinese food, but we gave it a wide berth. Well fortified, we went exploring. We had to check out Clear Water Bay to see if it was suitable for kitesurfing.

Finally, we stayed in front of the Aloha Hotel. There was something like a kite station here. At least there was an F-One tent, a board hut and compressed air. At noon, the wind promised by the weather app started.

Kitesurfing is still a very male sport here in China, there were no girls here. What astonished me was that I have experienced togetherness among kitesurfers everywhere, even in northern China, but here it is missing. Up to now, I thought that helpfulness among each other was a characteristic that every kitesurfer had internalised, since launching and landing alone is possible in principle, but it is also not entirely safe or gentle on the equipment. But as already mentioned above, unfortunately "méiyou". I was not allowed to experience this here. After I had waited for several minutes to see if someone could help me land the kite and was on the verge of landing it myself, someone finally got up and took the kite. I exclude all pedestrians, because they don't know on which side you have to touch the kite. But the walkers didn't miss the opportunity to take photos all the time. (Here, as a European, you are always and constantly photographed, whether you like it or not) - perhaps I could contribute to our joint income by holding out my hand every time I am photographed....

In Boao, a baby was even pressed into my arms so that the father could take pictures. Of me with his child. Incidentally, it was unasked for and simply pressed into my hand. I actually had my hands full, too, because I wanted to roll up the bar. But I preferred to drop the bar rather than a child, because that's where the social streak in me comes through.

Back to Lingshui.

In the evening we went out to eat. We had Didi drive us into town, as we had already seen on our morning tour that there was a food market in town. After we had explored the possibilities, we decided on the restaurant that looked like an Indian. But it wasn't, Indian on the outside, Chinese on the inside. Well, we were still hungry and ordered rice and cauliflower and lamb, just like the night before. Everything else on the menu is really too wild. After we let our eyes wander from the menu back to the area, we noticed that the other guests were behaving like pigs. There was already a waste bin at each table as a preventive measure, but the guests consistently ignored it.

That's kind of how I imagine the medieval carousals where the knights threw the bones over their shoulders. It looked outrageous! My gastronome heart contracted painfully. The fact that we didn't run into rats or other animals during our meal is probably only because the Chinese eat EVERYTHING....

Our meal was okay, but we didn't eat the lamb, which was covered in a strange slimy marinade that we found unappetising.

We spent the next day uneventfully at the beach. I did try to rent a SUP, but didn't want to be ripped off by the "extremely friendly and obliging Chinese" (sarcasm off). (200 yen for a whole day - it was already 3 p.m., 100 yen for an hour) And since we spent a day doing nothing anyway, we didn't feel like doing anything in the evening or getting ready to go out. So we ordered burgers, wraps and fries to the hotel via the already mentioned kangaroo app.

Unthinkable in Germany, I learned here that it's common practice in China to have food delivered to your hotel or to carry your groceries to your room. Unfortunately, our food was so spicy that I could only eat half of the wrap and half of the burger. My mouth had no feeling at all. The food then took its revenge during the night and I spat it all out again. I didn't feel any better the next day either. Jana was also flat after breakfast, which I had already cancelled for myself. It was only in the afternoon that we were able to get ourselves together to go on a little excursion. What looked like a stone's throw on the map turned out to be a 1-hour humpback tour. On the other hand, we had bright sunshine for the first day.

What is a big thing here in China: photos on the beach in wedding dresses. We can't even count how many couples we've seen. In five minutes, a couple hits the beach, poses under the guidance of the photographer and then moves on to the next shoot. The dresses and suits are all rented (and look correspondingly grey and/or yellowed, the trousers are sometimes too short or too long, and the bridal bouquet looks very tattered, even though it is already made of plastic).

BUT: if there's one thing the Chinese know how to do, it's fake. The pictures are edited afterwards so that it looks as if everything is perfect. My Chinese teacher explained the hype to me later: even before the wedding, the couples have these photos taken. She has some too, by the way. And I almost didn't recognise them in her pictures either. Photoshop is used to smooth out, stretch, push, enlarge the eyes, delete the people in the background, change the light, whiten the dress, and so on. That the man or woman isn't still changed is a miracle, but surely that's possible too....


We spent our last day in Sanya. We had already booked a table at an Italian restaurant a week ago. Finally, real food! My stomach hadn't quite calmed down yet, so I only ate a salad, but Jana was able to treat herself to a tuna pizza again.

After the delicious lunch, we still had time until our departure and spent it on the beach. Another idea was to go shopping, but we decided to let the last rays of sunshine touch our skin for the time being, as it is still so cold in Changchun that only our noses peek out.

Here, for the first time in China, I had the dubious pleasure of marvelling at a Peking Belly. What exactly is that?

A Peking belly is a Chinese man who has his T-shirt pushed up over his belly, like a crop top for men. And the trick is, the thicker, flabbier and fatter the belly, the richer the man is supposed to be. In this way, the Chinese, who are probably ready to mate, present wealth. Because the fatter the belly, the more money he has for food, so he is rich. The consideration that fat food not only makes a fat, unsightly belly, but also brings other problems, does not seem to have arrived here yet. On the contrary.

Jana's advice: "Don't look, he'll leave soon" must have helped, because after the Chinese Mike Glotzkowski had done a few laps around our towel, he left without having achieved anything. We also had to pack our towel soon, unfortunately the plane was not waiting for us.

When we arrived at the airport, we dropped off our rental car. By the way, we made a precision landing with the fuel level. With ¼ and 160km remaining range, we returned our car in exactly the same way. The fact that the drop-off didn't go quite smoothly either... well, we're already long-suffering. First the agent couldn't find our parking space, then something went wrong with the return of the deposit and then there was the language barrier.

Further on at the check-in we want to check in our sports luggage. In Changchun we paid 165 Yen for 18kg, in Sanya 1053 Yen for 19,5kg. It is clear to everyone that we will not be ripped off. So we discussed it for a long time and with the help of the assistant of Jana's husband, we suddenly had to pay only 495 yen. That's only half of the actual price, but still twice as much as on the outward flight. Despite the circumstances, we still got our flight and landed safely in Changchun on Saturday morning.

My summary:

The holiday was meant to be an exploration trip and expedition, but we all did not expect it to turn out to be a real survival trip. Hungry and at times more than frustrated, we often preferred bottled food.

China, or at least Hainan, also seems to be a service desert. More than once we tried to reach our destination with patience and friendliness. In retrospect, I often think of the sentence someone said to me here: "the one who complains the loudest and most foul-mouthed is the one who is most likely to get what he asks for". However, I refuse to behave like that towards other people, especially service staff. After all, I went through the hard (gastronomic) school myself. Nevertheless, I also had to realise that only by explicitly mentioning names and threatening consequences was it possible to refund the breakfast price in the first hotel. There was no way forward on the friendly path.

The landscape of Hainan is incredibly green, but unfortunately there are always corners that are polluted. The locals have probably not yet developed a sense for the entirety of their island. There are already ecological parks here and there that resemble nature reserves, but everyone is next to themselves and doesn't sweep away their dirt, but continues to do so.

Denny and I are now planning a holiday together for our first wedding anniversary. As the borders are still closed, or if we return from another country we are currently facing 6 weeks of quarantine, we are actually almost left with Hainan if we want palm trees and sandy beaches. It is possible that the idea of service is still present in international hotels, but here my thoughts are clearly ambivalent, as I am aware that the staff here probably receive no training. So where should the service idea come from, if not from someone who exemplifies it?

Soon I will also upload our video from Hainan, so that you can also get an impression in moving pictures. We are also in the process of convincing our video editing programme to work with us again.

And finally, the pictures that didn't find a place here:

See you soon,


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