I wasn’t even sure what the plan was, except that we were flying to Haikou instead of Sanya and the distance between the two was about 4 hours by bus. In booking airline tickets at the last moment we missed our chance to fly into Sanya, our ultimate destination. “Don’t worry,” Anya soothed, “My friends have taken care of everything.” I was a bit sceptical, but later, I would come to understand that when Anya’s friends mobilize, everything will work out.
After touching down at Haikou airport, we collected our luggage and were promptly met my Leo – a cousin of one of Anya’s Chinese friends. The day before, Anya had made a few calls, and I was quickly learning that her friends were falling all over themselves to get their friends, relatives and business associates, who had any contacts in Hainan Island, to meet and take care of us. As a result, the usual taxi haggle game at the airport was squashed and Leo swept our bags up and ushered us to a waiting Lexus. We were offered cold water, ice-cold wet naps, and some wonderful company on our way to lunch. Mind you, we don’t know Leo, he’s just a relative of one of Anya’s friends, he came to meet us in a show of good hospitality. “Where are we going next?” was answered when Leo told us that he was taking us to lunch. I’ve never had rock star treatment before but I was starting to get used to it.
Leo took us to a massive restaurant in downtown Haikou. It seemed as if the restaurant staff knew him and knew that we were coming. We were ushered to a private booth upstairs and then the never-ending train of Chinese dishes – many local specialties – began to be served. I’d never had a lunch like this and it was wonderful. We feasted and talked to Leo and told him about our travels and he entertained us as a guest never has – at least in my life. I was really impressed with this treatment – more specifically, that all of these people just line up to help Anya as though she were a lifelong old friend. It made me evaluate how I operate in life versus how she does. She expects good treatment and the world seems to align for her. She makes allies and friends and her magnetic and charming personality seems to draw people into her realm of influence. The result is that everyone wants to be her friend and help her out. It was something that I was not used to – something that I’d have to get used to.
As the dishes kept coming, we kept gorging ourselves and laughing and chatting with Leo who was just a wonderful host. Of course the noodles were wonderful and laughed as I took the photo above – Anya tried so hard to bite the noodles off so that I wouldn’t have her photo with noodles hanging from her mouth. Leo thought it was most funny and we all laughed and enjoyed the moment.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, about the cultural differences in the food: the way to assure freshness in China is to select your own fish – while its alive. I suppose that the meals are prepared to show their freshness hence the head and all any time you order fish. After a while, the frozen stare of the fish with his eyes locked open – staring at you as you pull the flesh from his bones – it just became “no big deal” and you ate the fish like you would if he was fish sticks back in America. It really is amazing how you can adapt culturally given just a little time for it. I digress: this fish was amazing! Garlic and spices and olive oil and the taste just exploded your senses. I really do miss the Chinese cooking.
Without much fanfare, Leo glanced at his watch and announced that it “was time” to head to the bus station. He took us right over, we picked up our tickets and he seated us on the bus, just about 5 minutes before it departed. It was certainly the smoothest transfer I’ve every had in my life – and certainly the tastiest!
The bus ride from Haikou to Sanya was a lot of fun; as we passed through some of the villages, the Chinese school children waved to us and we waved back. Anya munched on sunflower seeds and we looked out the windows and compared the scenery with other places we’d visited and whether the landscape looked more like Hawaii or Laos.
Upon arrival at Sanya, I was again surprised - an impressed – when a local real estate agent showed up at the station to take us to our hotel. Her name was Wendy and she was a tall and beautiful Chinese woman in her early 20′s. She wore a tight red skirt and had a matching candy apple red Mitsubishi Eclipse to match. We had to squeeze to get in with all the luggage but in no time she delivered us to a 5th floor ocean front apartment.
The apartment had a beautiful sea side view and the cool ocean breeze blew through the apartment leaving a fresh salt smell. The sun had already set but I knew that we wouldhave many more beautiful sunsets before we had to depart.
Becky was another one of Anya’s “friends of a friend” who was just taking care of us as a good host. There was no profit or commission in it for her, we were being handled carte blanche and gratis. The normal rate for our ocean front apartment was $150 a night and our “friend of a friend” discount brought it down to $50 per night. The room was equipped with a full kitchen, large balcony, huge living room, bedroom, fourier, and tv room. Sanya is China’s equivalent of Honolulu and I couldn’t believe we had an ocean front room for only fifty bucks a night!
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