Haikou perches neatly at the
top of Hainan, facing Guangdong province
across the Qiongzhou channel and at the
mouth of the Nandu River. This is the political,
commercial and transportation center of
the province and serves as a convenient
stopping point en route to the beaches in
the south of the island. Perhaps the most
curious aspect of the city however, is the
feeling that despite the five million inhabitants
here, this place lacks a truly "local"
population. Everyone here seems to be visiting;
be they tourists, business travelers or
country bumpkins from out of town, it is
hard to grasp just exactly who this city
belongs to, especially considering the sheer
speed that things are changing here.
Despite local government attempts
to market this place as a HOT Chinese tourist
destination, (which have led to inevitable
"renovations"), Haikou still has
a few interesting sights and some charming
old streets and alleys to wander and explore.
Most of all however, this is a good place
to get accustomed to the island and the
laid back feeling about the place. Despite
the massive changes taking place, a very
relaxed feeling remains about this city.
Palm trees line the boulevards, and some
well preserved colonial architecture adds
to the feeling that this is a city with
a distinct and unique way of life, struggling
to come to terms with its new role as tourist
destination and as the capital of one of
China's newest Special Economic Zones and
the nation's newest province.