Dec 5, 2006

Hainan adventure

I went to Sanya on Hainan island recently for some R&R. For those of you that remember, Hainan is the island to the south of China where a US EP-3E made an emergency landing in 2001 after a Chinese fighter pilot crashed into her wing. Subsequently the PLA interrogated the US flight crew and attempted to gather sensitive information from the plane.

My trip did not involve any encounters like that, but rather mostly involved eating a lot of seafood and laying around in the sun. Here are some photo highlights:

This is the inside of the most popular eatery in Sanya city.

Hermetically sealed tableware. The waitress told me it was untouched by human hands. They probably have a crew of chimpanzees working instead.

This is one of the so-called "betelnut beauties" (槟榔西施) of Sanya. The streets of Sanya, as in Taiwan, are covered in maroon saliva spatters from people chewing beetelnut.

Not betelnut beauties, but rather just regular Hainan farm gals selling vegetables at the back of the eatery.

Tasty shellfish, not yet cooked. We ate a large amount of shellfish there, cooked, of course, thank you. None of us got dysentery, so it must have been fresh or sufficiently cooked.

Hainan is probably the only place in China that has Habanero peppers. I was amazed. I was equally astounded when some Chinese friends ate some Habanero sauce without flinching. Who says Chinese can't handle spicy food? Now we know that that's not always the case. I brought back a bunch of fresh habs and some sauces to Beijing. There's definitely nothing close to Habaneros here.

This is a pair of Wenchang Chickens, apparently named after a city in Hainan Island. It's a local specialty item. I didn't taste them since I couldn't get over the tracheotomy hole in their necks. Zoom in for a look.

These are some vegetables bathed in the glow of the red neon signs of the eatery.

We dress pretty ridiculous with flowered shirts when we go to Hawaii, but we've got nothing on Chinese island-hoppers. They dress in matching floral print shirts, shorts, and often hats. Couples and large groups can be seen with identical "island clothes" (岛服). My Chinese friends thought I was strange for when I burst out laughing whenenver I saw this phenomenon.

This is a grown man wearing a tropical outfit that only a third-grader should. Again, I tended to attract more attention than this guy because I was laughing too loudly.

Scuba diving in Sanya is only recommended if you're (1) Chinese, (2) want to impress your friends by spending $100 for a one-tank 30 minute dive off of a shallow platform, and (3) if you've never been diving ever in your life. Other than that, stay away, stay far away. I did some research ahead of time so I stayed far away from the scuba diving offers. Did I mention that their rental equipment only includes one reg, and that they give you the bright yellow octopus to use as your primary reg? Amazing.

Before taking the 5 minute ferry ride to Wuzhizhou Island, you'll discover some tidbits about the diving there.

For example, from the sign above: "There are two diving spots and two tanks of gas for high-quality diving. There is in the boat diving area, and the other one is in another diving area behind the mountain with more beautiful environment. Put on diving suit and take a speedboat to a boat on the sea after training. Take the tank of oxygen and wear diving glasses, then jump into the water from the boat, diving into deep seabed slowly with the trainer..."

I'm not sure where they studied diving physiology, but I'm pretty sure that "tank of oxygen" would be toxic at sea level, let alone once you decend to a couple atmospheres of pressure.

Wuzhizhou Island is exeactly what would have happened if the Gestapo and the KGB had decided to get together and open a resort village. Here is one of the many, many signs all over the island forbidding almost any fun activities. This one reminds you not to "speel" on on the rocks. For those of you with a limited vocabulary like me, I looked "speel" up in Webster's dictionary, and it is a Scottish English word, meaning "to climb".

"Sloping and shippery." As soon as I saw this sign, all I could picture was Sean Connery shpeaking English and shaying, "shloping and shippery, shloping and shippery".

These are some local clam-diggers on the beach after coming back from Wuzhizhou Island. They have baskets full of shells and an interesting clam-digging device, reminiscent of a garden rake.

This is a pool of many huge, two-foot-long cuttlefish, copulating and swimming about in the night. This was at a seaside eatery with a number of pools containing all manner of fresh seafood. Upon purchase of a cuttlefish for one's meal, one of the fishmongers at the facility would scoop the unlucky animal from the pen, and dump him on the deck. The man would stand clear while the cuttlefish spit out water, and possibly ink, and then he would raise the fish up high and smack it down on the ground to knock it silly, and then use one hand to rip the cuttlefish's head from its body.

If you live in China for some time, you too will yearn to escape the drunken singing.


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