There is a village on the south east of the island which has been, like most other villages on Hainan, converted into a tourist attraction.
It was about the only place my cousins and I thought interesting (whereas my uncle was stoked by everything he saw everywhere, buying all manner of coconut-related rubbish), and were especially tickled to see signboards in what my cousin called ‘P. Ramlee Malay’.
The interesting thing about this village is that it showcased customs and cuisines the Hainanese returned emigres brought back with them from Southeast Asia.
Called Xinglong Overseas Chinese Farm, near Wanning town in Wanning County, it was a model village built by the Communists, and where Zhou Enlai had urged ‘Nanyang’ Chinese to resettle back in the 1950s and 60s.
So when the tour van spilled us out into the village, my uncle, Datuk Uncle Y. Y. Lee, took it upon his goodself to inspect the little stalls making kaya and coffee powder, since it was well known that he made the best coffee and kaya and various types of confectionery in the whole state of Negri Sembilan in Malaysia. He stabbed at every stall (and sometimes stallholder) with his walking stick, asking the stallholders how long they fried/roasted the beans, how much sugar they put in the kaya, and how come they didn’t put pandan leaves in it. Then he gave, yes gave freely, his secret to making the greatest tasting coffee-shop coffee in the universe (Seremban), whispering almost, that you had to fry the beans with sugar, margarine, pineapple husks and peanut shells.
Not that the stallholders (employees of the State-owned Xinglong Farm) were in the least interested. Worse, me and the cousins had to prevent a near violent altercation when the Datuk took offence that one of the stallholders did not know how to speak Hainanese, and therefore had no right to be anywhere on the island. (What dialect group are you? What dialect group are you?, he inquired while at the same time poking the stallholder with his walking stick.)
After being treated to a Javanese-Hainanese dance and trying to prevent the Datuk from accumulating more coconut paraphernalia, we were taken to a rather nice looking resort-style hotel called the Kangle Garden Resort. Only it only looked nice, and we spent the night being eaten alive by mosquitoes while we planned how to get to our ancestral village.
My cousin made a call to a relative in the village, (yes, we never learn to call ahead earlier) who, like everyone else on the island, said the town (Kachek) our village was close to was close to where we were. Double checking the two very different maps I had, I found otherwise. But still, at least we knew roughly where to head, and decided to pay the tourbusvan driver to abandon the other tourists and take us to Kachek the next morning. He agreed.
Surf stop: nimrodel.net