Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Last day in China

We are currently in Haikou, the capital of Hainan, and leaving tomorrow morning to go back to Hong Kong. It's been a great trip, although thoroughly exhausting. I can't remember if I've said that already... interestingly, I can't access my own blog here in China - seems to be censored, I guess. I can still post entries, though. (Obviously).

Yesterday we went and saw a couple of properties here in Haikou that belonged to the family. One is a fabric shop, with apartments above it. A little derelict and dirty, but not unlike a lot of the places we've seen. The government had taken over control of the property for a number of years and the family was able to claim it back in 2001, so the Uncle who showed it to us (a different Uncle to the one that has been taking us around) was very proud to show it to us. The other building is a massive big old hotel... I'm not sure if it still operates as one. It was apparently the first Western-style hotel in Hainan. A beautiful old building - the little ornate details were amazing. But, like the first building, very dirty and derelict. People were still actually living in it, though! I couldn't believe it. We couldn't go up to the third story because it was dangerous... and my dad said that the building is condemned (or should be)... and the best thing to do would be to knock it down and put up a new multi-story thing. I was devastated to hear that, but can understand it, too. It would cost many many more Yuan to renovate the thing than to put up a new building. The location was excellent, too. Very close to the city central and the river. The ownership is a bit contentious. After visiting the building we went to a government office where my dad chatted to a bureaucrat for an hour (while we waited in the car). He came out happy, so hopefully something good will come out of it and the family can reclaim ownership.

Last night we had dinner with a bunch of relatives, on my father's mother's side. It was so cool to see my grandmother's youngest sister and brother. Her sister was a spitting image of her - quite uncanny. And a couple of Aunties looked so much like my own Auntie! A couple of the younger cousins could speak English so we had a much more enjoyable evening chatting to her. She said she was very "confused" that we were unable to speak Chinese! Makes me feel bad for never learning. Perhaps now I'll have more of an incentive to learn. Although, I've been trying to learn some Hainanese while I'm here. It's quite difficult, especially getting the tones right. The funny thing is that I keep accidentally speaking in Hokkien instead!! :) (another dialect spoken in Malaysia, I think).

Anyway, tonight my brothers and I are keen to do some serious shopping - we all exchanged some money at the beginning of the trip and haven't had a chance to spend much of it - our father keeps paying for everything! (Shouldn't complain, should I?!) It will be a challenge going out without an interpreter. My dad will be staying at the hotel since the hundreds of relatives from last night will be coming to say a final farewell. I don't know if we'll be around to see them or not.

Well, I'll post some more pictures and write a bit more about my experience when I get home and have more time. It's been a really great trip, although frustrating at times. I really hope that I can bring my kids here one day and show them the place... and I will definitely learn some more Chinese before then!

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