Cycling Ding'an and Chengmai - Day 2 of 3
June 9th, 2019 (77.79km)
After biking 50km from Haikou, I was ready to rest in Ding'an's county seat for the night. I found a small hotel and the boss was even kind enough to give me two delicious zongzi, a traditional snack that's particularly popular around Dragon Boat Festival. Ding'an's variety of zongzi are especially great, with pork and egg yolk wrapped inside.
Ding'an is maybe the closest to the middle of nowhere one can get in Hainan. There isn't a lot going on there, but for a cyclist that's part of the charm. In the county seat, there is some old architecture that some 500 years ago was the Ming County government. In the very north of the 'city' is a surprisingly well reserved gate. I walked through the gate after dark and the faint impression of dragon scales could be seen on two boats sheltered from the elements between races.
I don't think Ding'an's county seat is a destination in and of itself, but the old city is fun to bike around for an hour or so, if for no other reason to see a small, but authentic part of Chinese history untouched by commercialism and obnoxious tour groups.
Beautiful countryside around Ding'an
I continued south for another 20 some kilometres to what is likely Ding'an County's most well known attraction, Wenbi Peak (文笔峰).
Wenbi Peak is a small mountain, isolated from the major mountain ranges on the island. The northern portion of Hainan is quite flat and Wenbi can be seen for miles because of it. On and around the hill is many impressive temples. This place holds special significance to southern branches of Taoism.
I walked around the complex a bit, still soaked in sweat. I could whip my arms and drops of sweat would be visible on the ground.
Before hiking to the summit, I saw several older Chinese men playing instruments inside one of buildings and walked in to observe. My presence did not go unnoticed for long and I was quickly bombarded with the typical questions regarding my place of origin and reasons for coming to China. There was four of them and the one to very right held some sort of traditional stringed instrument that piqued my interest.
"Can I try that?" I asked.
"Do you know how to play it?"
"Well, I can play a guitar. How about you teach me?"
I'm still not sure if he was being typically humble, shy, or legitimate, but he responded, "Oh no, I'm still learning myself. You go ahead and play."
I learned this thing is called ruanxian (阮咸) and is ancient enough not to have an English name. It has four strings tuned as GDGD, but otherwise plays quite similar to a guitar. Further research told me the Chinese might have been playing these things as early as 2000 years ago.
The longer I played it, the more I was able to play something resembling music and the more curious these musicians became. I just wish one of them could have shown me what this instrument was actually supposed to sound like...
Know any good cycling routes around Hainan? Ever do a full circle around the island? Let us know about your favorite places to cycle in Hainan in the comments below, and keep an eye out for the third part of this story coming soon.
Ricky Barrett Jamer is a travel writer from Canada. You can keep up with his travels by staying tuned to Hainan Life and following his page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FromChinatotheWorldBlog/
And as always, enjoy exploring Hainan!
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