Village tour in Hainan gains increasing popularity
"Most cities in Hainan are very international now. But I still love the villages here. They have more stories," said Wilen.
A 61-year-old computer engineer and photographer from Finland, Wilen came to the province in 2008 for the first time. "I was fascinated by the sunshine and its passionate people," he said.
Wilen stays with Liu Jinmei’s family at Xinhui village in Haikou city during every visit. Now 91 years old, she treats Wilen as her own son.
The first time Wilen spent the Chinese traditional reunion time with Liu’s family was in 2011. "We had a big dinner together and we chatted with villagers. Fireworks and laughter were everywhere," he said.
Liu’s grandsons and granddaughters are living in big cities. Some live abroad. Wilen said most people in Haikou are like Liu, willing to let their children leave their hometown and are also open to different cultures.
"Xinhui villagers never fear talking with foreigners," he said. "When I ask to take a photo of them, they will immediately get ready with a nice pose."
Besides easy-going locals, there are also many "international" scenes in the village – like a middle-age man wearing jeans and cowboy hat who Wilen dubbed "Hainan’s cowboy" and a girl in fancy dress he called the "Marilyn Monroe of Hainan".
During the week Wilen spent at the village, he took many photos of it and surrounding areas.
"In 2008, there weren’t many trees along the beaches. But now I can see a lot. People are becoming more aware of the importance of environmental protection," he said.
Modern buildings and private cars are also new developments witnessed by Wilen. "People are getting richer. Urbanization in the village is rapid," he said.
The Finn has traveled to many famous tourist spots in the province like the Yalong Bay in Sanya and the Binglang Valley in Baoting county.
"The province’s beautiful sights are very attractive to international tourists," he said.
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