The Hawaii of Asia(2)
2008-01-25 14:07:34 [ Big Normal Small ]     Comment

The Hawaii of Asia

Hainan has a great deal to offer away from the beaches, with the Li and Miao minority groups inhabiting the interior of the island in the lush Limuling mountain range. Hainan is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots and one of the few places on the planet that still possesses primeval forest among the extensive monsoon forest that covers 50 percent of the island. Jianfengling Nature Reserve, about 115km west of Sanya, is home to hundreds of species of plants and insects, and gives an idea of what the island probably once looked like, blanketed by tropical jungle.

Northwest of the city sits the statue of A Ma (Tin Hau), a gigantic statue of the Buddha of compassion. Built on a platform in the South China Sea, at 108 meters (and 16 meters taller than the Statue of Liberty), it is said to be the tallest statue in the world. Nearby, tourists make the most of the photo opportunities, posing in front of a large bronze bell and striking a suitable stance on the steps of the Nanshan Temple. Further west, the Nantian hot spring resort makes for a relaxing side-trip.

Come evening, the sky changes from a dull orange to cobalt blue. Nighttime on the seafront and lights illuminate signs beckoning customers into all-you-can-eat buffets, where fragrantly smoky barbeques entice groups to sample the fresh seafood: crabs, tiger prawns, clams, lobster, squid and various species of fish caught in the waters just off the ragged coast. Moths swirl in the lamplight, and the warm night air is full of whirring and chirpings from the tall grass, the distant beat of a Russian polka audible further down the beach.

The island offers a winter escape and, outside the Spring Festival Golden Week, it is a pleasant experience. The result of this tourist boom is a curious blend of high-end resorts and kitsch, as developers look to capture as large a portion of the global market as possible. To cater to all tastes is a difficult task, but one man's hell will always be another's paradise.(That's Beijing)
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