Overland from Penang to Hainan

By Jee Say Hai   文: 俞自海   


The first part of the expedition (November 2002) was to travel over land from Penang (Malaysia) to four Asean countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos) covering a distance of about 5,800 km. Total time on the move was 123 hours within 17 days.

The second part of the journey (October 2003) was to continue from Halong Bay City (east of Hanoi) to Sanya (Hainan Island southern most city), host to the Miss World pageant for three consecutive years, 2003, 2004 and 2005, a world record indeed. The distance covered was 450 km on land and 4 1/2 hours on ferry.

In the case for the writer, it's a dream comes true: to travel to his ancestral home in Hainan by land, from Penang. The information contained in this article therefore focus Hainan as the final destination. For that he hopes to share his experience and establish a networking relationship in culture, economic and common interest amongst the adventurers in general and Hainanese in particular. 



The EXPEDITION started from the Butterworth railway station in Penang (Malaysia) by train to Bangkok. From Bangkok the EXPEDITION took another local train that brought them to Aranyaprathet (Thailand), a Thai-Cambodia border town. We passed a night at the town before heading for Siem Reap (Cambodia ) by van the following morning. While in Siem Reap, one must visit Angkor Wat heritage site where the Angkor Empire ruled the region for nearly 400 years in the early 10th century. We landed in the heart of Phnom Penh city after the 5 hours speed boat ride that cut across Lake Tonle Sab. Phom Penh locates precisely where Tonle Sab River and Mekong River meet. A Malaysian-Vietnam joint venture company operates a bus service between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam). In Vietnam we joined a unique tourist bus operator. We bought a one way ticket that will enable us to travel from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to Hanoi in the north with stopovers and hotel accommodation at our own choice. The two cities are 1,800 km apart. Stopovers are optional at Nha Trang (beach resort), Hoi An (ancient seaport), Hue (capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945).

Halong Bay, located east of Hanoi, is a World Natural Heritage site. Passengers will see one of the most spectacular sea landscape in the world, with 1960 islands within an area of 1550 square km.

The 200 meters concrete bridge links the immigration posts at Mong Cai (Vietnam) and Dong Xing (China). Beihai, a sea port cum holiday resort in Guangxi Province, is 190 km from the border. From here another 5 hours bus ride will bring you to Hai An, a sea port at the southern most tip peninsula in China. There! Haikou (Hainan) is just on the opposite site: linked by a 90-minutes ferry ship ride, the final destination at last!

From Penang to Hainan by land

Route: Penang > Bangkok > Siem Reap > Phnom Penh > Ho Chi Minh City > Hue > Hanoi > Hainan



  • Capital: Kuala Lumpur
  • Land Area: 330,000 sq. km.
  • Population: 24 million (2004) 
  • Currency: Ringgit   
  • Exchange Rate: US$1.00 =3.80 Ringgit (2005)
  • Major Industries: electronic and electrical goods, textiles, garments, footwear, chemicals,  petroleum, wood and   metal products, rubber
  • Major Export: electronic and electric machinery, petroleum and LNG, textiles, garments, footwear, palm oil, sawn timber
  • Major Import: manufacturing inputs, machinery and transport equipment, metal product



Month       Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec

Temp C       26   27   29   30   29   28   27   28   27   27   27   26
Days rain     1    1    2    6   14   15   16   16   19   17    9    4



Penang (1045 square km.) consists of the island and the coastal strip on the mainland where Butterworth is located. The two are linked by the 13.5 km Penang Bridge and a 24-hour ferry service. The British ruled Penang from 1786 to 1957. The various buildings, the many western food outlets and historical sites in the heart of the city are testimonial of the colonial master's influence in Penang. Georgetown is the site for the economic, cultural, political and educational activities. Many places of tourist attractions are found here. The city also boasts the multi-culture where various religious temples, churches and mosques co-exist side by side.

<< The Butterworth-Bangkok international train leaves Butterworth daily at 1340 hour and arrives in Bangkok at 0930 hour (local time: 1030 hour) with stop-over at Malaysian-Thailand border town, Padang Besar for immigration clearance. The journey takes about 21 hours with dinner served at 1830 hour after take off from Hatyai, southern Thailand biggest city and 935 km south of Bangkok.

Train fare is RM100.00 for single journey (air-conditioned)




  • Capital: Bangkok
  • Land Area: 513,000 sq. km (156% of Malaysia)
  • Population: 65 million (2004)
  • Currency: Baht
  • Exchange Rate: US$1.00 = 40 Baht (2005)
  • Major Industries: electronic, gems and jewelry, footwear, textiles, garments, vehicles
  • Major Export: textiles, computer and components, gems and jewelry, footwear
  • Major Import: industrial machinery, iron and steel, electrical, machinery and parts, chassis and body



 Month       Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec

 Temp  C     26   27   29   30   29   28   27   28   27   27   27   26
 days rain    1    1    2    6   14   15   16   16   19   17    9    4


<<  From Bangkok the EXPEDITION catched the 1310 hour train and arrived in Aranyaprathet (Thailand-Cambodia border town) at 1820 hour.  
Members of the EXPEDITION   from left Lim Gin Hai, Sim Eng Lim, Lee Song Cheong, Lee Sin Ee, Cheng Gaik Khoon and Jee Say Hai, the writer, taken in front of ARAN GARDEN HOTEL 2 of 110 Rai-u-thit Road, Aranyaprathet Sra Kaew.  Tel: 037-231070, 231837
Across the border is Poipet (Cambodia) where 6 modern casino hotels made up this town. Here one can witness the vast difference between the rich and the poor, the modern and the old traditional way of live.  There is no visa requirement for Malaysian entering Cambodia. The photo was taken outside the Thailand and Cambodian immigration points which were housed side by side.  The background is Cambodian landmark, an Angkor Wat structure.




  • Capital: Phnom Penh
  • Land Area: 181,000 sq. km (55% of Malaysia)
  • Population: 14 million (2004)
  • Currency: Riel
  • Exchange Rate: US$1.00=4,000 Riel (2002)
  • Major Industries: textiles, garments, beverage, food and wood processing
  • Major Export: textiles, garments, sawn wood, wood furniture and rubber
  • Major Import: transport equipment, machinery, manufactured goods, food and chemical



 Month       Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec

 Temp  C     26   27   29   30   29   28   27   28   27   27   27   26
 days rain    1    1    2    6   14   15   16   16   19   17    9    4



The distance from Poipet to Siem Reap is about 120 km. However travelers must not expect to reach the destination in less than 5 hours! If you are unlucky traveling on a van with a malfunction air-conditioner you may take off your shirt to enjoy the natural breeze! But let's be fore warned: your exposed body may likely turn into a writing pad! This earth road runs most part of the route, manoeuvring along many port holes and crossing over many damaged wooden bridges. Paddy cultivation has been Cambodia main economic activity, in particularly during the Angkorian Civilization. So it is no surprise to find paddy field along the route.

Cambodia used to be one of the most important rice producers in Asia and able to support itself from its own natural resources. The Mekong River, which flows through its plain, is one of the great river of the world and the third-longest in Asia. The river, with numerous tributaries flows slowly and majestically through the Cambodia plain . It has influenced the way of life of the people and its history. Given Cambodia time the past glory may re-surface.

Photo from left:

  1. Gateway To Cambodia: On Cambodia soil –modern replica of the Angkor Wat is in the background; hand carts are common sight – they are used to transport goods as well as people.
  2. The Rich And The Poor: Cambodia have 6 modern casino hotels – foreground: Holiday Palace; further is Grand Diamond City, Tropicana Hotel
  3. Paddy Field: This is paddy field which greets you all the way. It stretches for over 40 km along the route to the next town, Sisophon and from there continues for another 80 km. before you arrive at Siem Reap
  4. An Accident: The road is dual carriage; if you meet with an accident the carriage turn into one; you can not u-turn if you are in the queue; a tractor is waiting for you to pull your vehicle through the muddy stretch, at a charge of course!
  5. Journey Of Dust: This earth road is considered good except that you do not follow closely behind a running vehicle! There are swellings and irregularities on the road surface along the route and you need a good driving skill to cross the many damaged wooden bridges!



Siem Reap is the town next to Angkor Wat. The main activity of this town is to provide accommodation, food, transport and tour services to the travelers to Angkor Wat and other temples in the vicinity. Siem Reap town: 7 km to airport – 12km to Lake Tonle Sap ferry terminal – 7 km to Angkor Wat.

Route to Siem Reap:

  1. By air from Phnom Penh. (30 minutes)
  2. By bus from Poipet (at Thailand-Cambodia border) (7 hours)
  3. By boat from Battambang (3 hour by road to Poipet) (4 hours)
  4. By boat from Phnom Penh (6 hours)

< < Left : Siem Reap wet market where the locals do their morning chores

< < Right : The main road cut across the town and lead to the entrance of Angkor Wat site.



While in Siem Reap the EXPEDITION visited one of the seven wanders of the World, the Angkor Wat heritage site, where the Angkor Empire ruled the region for nearly 400 years in the early 10th century.

Remains of what is commonly referred to as the Angkorian civilisation can be found in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. The site of Angkor, which served as capital city from the 9th century until 1431, includes about 50 monuments and spread over 230 square km. With time nature has taken over the temples, reducing some of them to ruins. Angkor, with all its mysteries and unsolved questions arouses one's imagination. The Angkor Empire, during its peak (in early 13 century), controlled an area stretching from Vientiane (present Laos capital) in the north and all the way to South Vietnam. Year 1283 saw the first Mongols attacks on Cambodia. The Angkor dynasty slowly subsided until its disappearance, mysteriously. It was abandoned in the 15th century before being rediscovered a century later.

International researchers and specialists, using sophisticated equipment and latest technology, are struggling to re-assemble the ruins into their original look. On the international markets, profits from art looting are second only to profits from drug smuggling. Angkor is no exception. Many precious art of works were destroyed in wars with neighbouring countries and civil war within the country. Organised trafficking came into play. Little by little trafficking developed into a more professional enterprise. Angkor Wat entrance - US$20 for 1 day or US$50 for 3 days.

Photo from left: Here we captured the sun, in three timely shots, slowly and spectacularly sinking into the plain horizon!

  1. Go ....
  2. Going ....
  3. Gone ....
  4. Sun Set Temple: Shot taken before the sun touched the far horizon....in a brighter sight; the last ray of the sun which struck on pieces of stone structure on the hill top, the nature is the excellent art master – changing the colour with perfection and delights.
  5. "Fire" on Sun Set Temple: The mother nature changes the colour of the structure – really look like heat-up, very hot indeed, apparently!



Tonle Sap Lake is the biggest lake in South-East Asia. During the dry season the water flow from the lake into the Mekong River. During this season the area of the lake is 2,500 sq. km and the depth is 2 meter. During the raining season the area of the lake increase to 10,000 sq. km and its depth is 10 meter. The water from Lake Tonle Sap flow into the Mekong River during the dry season from November to March. From April to October the melting snow in the mountains of Tibet raise the level of the Mekong and its tributaries; Lake Tonle Sap during this time takes off a huge volume of water from the Mekong which would otherwise submerge the entire Cambodian plain. While the flood waters turn the Lake into an inland sea, huge quantities of fish are found; also a huge low-lying area filed with fertile mud enhance rice cultivation.

Fortunately this regular flooding is predictable; the water never rises above a certain level and so no catastrophe ever occurs. The people who live beside the Lake have not only adjusted to this annual inundation, they make a living from it. The water was exploited for the irrigation of the rice fields and to this day it provides a livelihood for the densely populated areas around the lake, where three-quarters of the population live.

Photo from left:

  1. Morning Market: Jetty Market, 12 km from Siem Reap town – the main road lining up with morning hawkers' stalls
  2. Hi! Fellow Hainanese (Suki): Cambodia Hainanese, a suki from Association of Khmer Hainan in Cambodia. Her name, Chen Xiu Zheng, a member of Cambodia Hainan Association Hainan Lion Dance Group. She can not speak Hainanese dialect. Her family operates a coffee stall beside the ferry jetty. Her father charged us US$2.00 for 3 cups of black coffee.
  3. The Ferry: This picture was taken in late November, the beginning of the dry season. The boat journey from here (in Siem Reap) to Phom Penh ( about 130 km away) takes 5 hours. The ferry departs at 7.00am daily and arrives at Phnom Penh town centre at 1.00pm. Two ferries operate in the opposite direction. Traveling by ferry is much comfortable and faster than by land.
  4. On the Ferry Deck: A seat on this ferry costs US$25. We noticed that the tickets for the seats were over sold: some tickets were marked with seat numbers while others were without any numbers. In fact many tourists did not mind sitting on the deck to enjoy the breeze. I was one of them.
  5. House on stilts: The ferry is now entering the Tonle Sap River. The sighting of these houses, which are built on stilt to overcome seasonal flooding, indicates that the first town (Kompong Chhnang) is in sight.



The next stop-over from Seam Reap was Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The EXPEDITION took the lake route - cutting through the biggest lake in South-east Asia, Lake Tonle Sab. The journey took about 5 hours by ferry speedboat.

  • (Left): Central Market: Central Market is the landmark of Phnom Penh for three roads meet here. One can have a feel of the local daily activities. The bus going to Ho Chi Minh City is located along one of these road, 200m from the Central Market.
  • (Centre) Ready to board: The luxury coach plies between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City. The coach service is jointly operated by a Malaysian company (Phnom Penh Ho Wah Genting Transport Co. Ltd) and a company owned by the Vietnamese government. The bus departs Phnom Penh at 6.30 am (Every Tuesday /Thursday/Saturday). Another bus departs Ho Chi Minh City simultaneously. Fare for one way is US$12.00 per person.
  • (Right): Hello! Fellow Malaysian: The writer (left) with Mr Wong Thin Loy, a Malaysian attached to the Malaysian Phnom Penh based company. We took the coach which left Phnom Penh at 6.30 a.m. and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at 5.30 p.m. Along the way we spent 1 1/2 hours to tend to punctured tyre and another 2 hours at the border for immigration clearance.





  • Capital: Hanoi
  • Land Area: 331,000 sq. km (about the same size as Malaysia)
  • Population: 83 million (2004)
  • Currency: Dong
  • Exchange Rate: US$1.00 = 14,000 (2004)
  • Major Industries: agriculture, forestry, fishery, industrial construction.
  • Major Export: crude oil, coal, chromium, tin, cements, woolen carpet, jute carpet, rice, cinnamon, marine products.
  • Major Import: motors, petroleum products, diesel oil, fertilizers.


Vietnamese people lived in war since early history: the country was colonized by foreign powers for nearly a century. In 1954 with the aid of China, Vietnam defeated France resulting in the formation of two countries: North Vietnam and South Vietnam under the Geneva Convention. However peace did not come through for the people of both countries; instead civil war started. Super powers intervened and the US got involve in the so-called Vietnam War in the 1960s until its pull-out in 1975 when the two countries were re-unified.


Formerly known as Saigon with a population of 5 million (1993). Renamed after the Americans left at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Once called Paris of the East because of its French colonial architecture and sidewalk cafes. It is the biggest city in Vietnam; it is also the biggest port in Vietnam, only about 70 km from the South China Sea. Vietnam's economic reforms are most evident in Ho Chi Minh City. What to see in this city? Yes, the Reunification Palace, formerly the Presidential Palace with a striking photograph showing the Vietnamese army tank slammed through the Presidential Palace's gates in April 1975, which symbolically marked the South Vietnamese defeat in the War; the War Crimes Museum with photographs and exhibits on the Vietnam War and you must be psychologically prepared on the sight of photos of babies hideously deformed, the consequences of exposure to Agent Orange; the Historical Museum with archaeological artifacts and a bronze Buddha that dates from the 5th century; Cu Chi Village, also known as the Steel City - a remarkable team works that saw the fall of the Americans in the Vietnam War. The village is located 60 km north-west of Saigon. It is the nearest Vietcong military base close to the American air-base in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. During the day the women folks did their normal farming and daily chores including collecting intelligent information; however when night fell they went underground, physically, to assist the Vietcong sewing uniforms and making slippers (shoes) and preparing food.

  • City by Night: Considered as the "Gemstone in the Far East", Ho Chi Minh City named after President Ho Chi Minh houses a prosperous and modern life with numerous skyscrapers. Not ancient like Hanoi nor romantic as Nha Trang, this city is advancing in the cause of national industrialization and modernization.
  • Traditional Costume: Pretty Vietnamese girls wearing the Vietnamese traditional costume.
  • Cyclo: They banned these cyclos in 2001 as a remnant of the war-torn past when the country strove to lure foreign investment They even banned a film about them. But two years later the ban was lifted and the cyclos are back on the streets of Vietnam, notably in Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Hanoi.
  • Cu Ci Tunnel: The Cu Chi Tunnels built during Vietnam's war for independence from the French. The tunnels were greatly enlarged during the war with the U.S. The tunnels, 200 km in length, was a unique and complex, web-like underground engineering works. There are 3 levels, 2-10 meters below ground level: there are places for meeting, cooking, sleeping, sewing, injury treatment, making weapons; emergency exit through Saigon River and traps.



The Singapore Kunming Rail Link (SKRL) project is not about building a high-speed rail link from Singapore to Kunming. The primary objective is to provide a continuous railway link based on existing infrastructure within the affected countries and if necessary, to rehabilitate certain sectors and constructing missing links on SKRL network. The realization of the project would mean that Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and China would benefit from a railway network that would join the major cities in these countries. It has been proven that the introduction of rail services and railway links will help to boost development along the corridor of such network.

Malaysia is the chairman of the Special Working Group on SKRL project. Malaysia have expressed their commitment to donate rail material to Cambodia for the construction of the 48 km missing link between Poipet and Sisophon. The rail from Singapore to Kunming City (Capital of Yunnan Province of China) through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam takes a total length of 5,600 km.

(Photo top) This 1800 km rail track connects Ho Chi Minh City in the south and Hanoi in the north.



Hoi An is perhaps the most unique town in Vietnam with glorious past in commerce and shipping activities. It was an ancient seaport with ships calling from neighbouring countries and making it the regional port of call for the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabian and French merchants. It was one of the most important ports in Southeast Asia in the 17th - 19th century. Amazingly this town was virtually untouched during the Vietnam War. Ancient buildings here represent influences from from both Asia, notably China, with narrow streets flanked by houses that have remained virtually unchanged for the last 200 years. There is similarity in flavour and style to that of the then Malacca port in Malaysia.

Hoi An is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 1999. The ships have gone but the travelers’ influence lingers on. Homes, pagodas, clan associations and other Asian architecture form a living museum here. Hoi An is the first China Town in Vietnam. Like other China Towns, there are many clan associations including Hainan, Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese. The younger generation, however, do not appreciate the Chinese culture and Chinese speaking population is reducing drastically



Hue, located in the central part of Vietnam, was the ancient capital of Vietnam from 1635 to 1954 where 13 emperors lived in the city. The Imperial Palace also called Forbidden City which followed the structures of the Forbidden City of China and inherits much of Chinese building architectural design. Its was also the palace of Vietnam's last emperor.

Photo from left:

  • Playing Chinese Chess: These young Vietnamese children were playing the Chinese chess game. We tried to converse with them in Chinese (Mandarin) but was responded with a curious smiling face for they did not understand what we said. Although this generation of the young children does not study Chinese language in school they were taught by their older generation to recognize the Chinese characters.
  • Oration: Standing position for oration where the Ministers stood at the marked stone according to their ranking to listen to the Emperor’s address.
  • Modern Lady: Ms Huynh Thi Thanh Van speaks good English; she acts as master of ceremony when there is a tour group watching the cultural show at the heritage site; seated at the same spot she also sells souvenir to tourists at the same time.
  • China Town: This is China Town which is situated on the same side of the Perfume River as the Imperial Palace. The buildings are typical shop-houses where the ground floors are used for business and the owners' family live on the top floor.
  • Hai Nan Association: Along the same road in the China Town we found many clan associations, namely the Hai Nan, Fu Jian, Chao Zhou, Guang Fu and also Chao Ying Shi (a temple for all Chinese dialects). Mandarin is now being taught in this temple. The writer and Mr Ang Gi Moh took the photo inside the Hai Nan Association where devoted members pray to the Tian Hou Goddess.


DONG HA town lies 20 km south of 17 degree latitude north, the DMZ (demilitarized zone) separating the North and South Vietnam under the 1954 Geneva Convention; the north and the south Vietnam were re-unified in 1975. The town is the strategic intersection town between Vietnam north-south highway and the east-west highway number 9. Go westwards for 75 km one will arrive at the Vietnam-Laos border town of Lao Bao (Vietnam). Continue from Lao Bao for another 230 km will lead you to the Laos-Thailand border town of Savannakhet (Laos) and Mukdahan (Thailand). From Mukdahan the road (169 km) connects the nearest railway station of Ubon Ratchathani where you can take the train to Bangkok (7 departures town daily).



Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. The city, founded in year 1010, sits on the banks of the Red River and is about 70 km from the Gulf of Tonkin. It is a city of lakes and parks with trees lining along the street and said to be Vietnam's most beautiful city. There are many French colonial building reminding the locals and tourists alike that the country was once ruled by the French. Vietnam was ruled by France for 96 years, from 1858 until their defeat in May 1954 in the famous Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The town outlying areas were bombed heavily during the Vietnam War.

Tourism infrastructure in Hanoi is still well below those offered by the sister city, Ho Chi Minh City. Notwithstanding this short coming Hanoi has a lot of interesting things to see. There are two very unique hisorical areas: the ancient city near Hoan Kiem Lake and the French-styled houses that were built by the French during their reign. Besides the many pagodas and temples in the city there are many ancient streets blooming with the same lotus flowers that have been existed here for centuries.

  • (Left) The Crowd: Hundred of tourists were disappointed when they were told that the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was closed for a month for annual maintenance, usually from late October to early November.
  • (Centre) Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Ho Chi Minh, who led North Vietnamese fight against the US died in 1969; he did not live to witness the defeat of the US in 1975; this mausoleum where his body is preserved, is built in his honour.
  • (Right) Hoan Kiem Lake: This is Hoan Kiem Lake, located in Hanoi commercial centre; there is a walkway along the lake perimeter and strolling along this shady walkway is most relaxing, day or night with the lake breeze cooling you along.


Relationship between Vietnam and China, sometimes amicable, sometimes antagonistic, have greatly impacted upon the fortunes of ethnic Chinese residents in Vietnam. An important issue in the experience of the Chinese in Vietnam has always been the depth and degree of the two countries' interaction. In the late 1970s all Chinese newspapers had to close down, as did all Chinese schools. At about the same time there were tides of 'boat people' left Vietnam. In 1986 Vietnam decided to unfetter the economy and move towards a more open society. Overseas Vietnamese, principally ethnic Chinese, have returned with some capital and know-how.

Local Chinese are considered as an asset by the government, which hopes their oversea relatives and connections will help to bring in foreign investment. There are reports of revival of Chinese organizations and the re-opening of Chinese language schools. State-run television also aired Chinese language session on conversation for the tourism sector. There are signs of life in Chinese cultural and leisure activities too.

First Photo: Mr Chen ( right) is the Chairman of a Yi Jing society in Hanoi. Though an ethnic Chinese he can not speak Mandarin, so are his grand-daughter (left) and his daughter (second from left).

Second Photo: Yi Jing written in Vietnamese language


Photo from left:

  1. Military Museum: During the Vietnam War the US released 5,382,000 tons of bombs and thousand of tons of toxic chemical in Vietnam; this Military Museum has a collection of bombers destroyed during the War.
  2. Confucius Temple: This Confucius Temple was built in the 11th century to honour Confucius, a great Chinese philosopher, politician and educationist whose teachings influence the Chinese around the world.
  3. Chinese Chess: Look! They leisurely play Chinese chess along the road side in the busy commercial centre of Hanoi; the teaching of Chinese language was banned since 1975; it is now re-open and it is being thought openly.
  4. Open Air Hair Cut: Ang Gi Moh looks attentively at this open air hair salon, a common scene during his childhood days; this barber operates along road side in Hanoi city; he moves around at specific venue and time to tend to customers.


Dai Nghia Humanitarian Centre for the Yellow Agent victims was set up on 10 December 2000 to offer assistance and training for the victims affected by the Yellow Agent to stabilize their lives and integrate into society; the Yellow Agent is the left over effect as the result of chemical war used by the Americans during the Vietnam War.The Centre is located along the route to Halong Bay City, about an hour drive from Hanoi. The Centre sells handicraft made by the victims, a program aim at training the victims to be self-supportive. It was documented that during the Vietnam War, US used up to 100 million litre of Yellow Agent which contained cancerous chemical. Few million US army personnel were suspected to carry Yellow Agent side effect and some Vietnamese possess 200 times more than the acceptable level of such chemical.



The next stop-over was Halong Bay City, an up-coming holiday resort located in the north east of Hanoi. From Halong Bay City ferry terminal the EXPEDITION took the ferry that cruised among the many islands. Passengers in the ferry can witness the most spectacular sea landscape in the world. Halong Bay has 1960 islands within an area of 1550 square km; the islands rise from the sea waters resembles very much the famous mountain of Guilin in China. The ferry ride takes about 3 hours before reaching the jetty. Passengers from the ferry have to take a 20 minutes bus ride before arriving at Mong Cai, a border town with China. The bus stopped at the ferry operation office at Mong Cai. After disembarking from the bus we took a leisure walk from the office to the border post.

  • (Left) World Natural Heritage: There are 1960 islands within an area of 1550 square km. UNESCO has endorsed this place as a World Natural Heritage in 1994; a spectacular site not to be missed.
  • (Centre) Fascinating Isles: Another view of the thousand islands along the route from Halong City to the border of China.
  • (Right) Halong Bay Ferry: This ferry plies between Halong Bay City and Mong Cai (border town with China) one way fare is USD12; there are two trips daily, each starting from opposite direction; the journey takes 3 hours. MONG CAI, VIETNAM - BORDER TOWN WITH CHINA


The bus journey from the jetty to Mong Cai takes about 20 minutes. The bus goes through the country side. Paddy field is a common sight in most part of the Vietnam country side. Rice cultivation, past and present, is one of the major economic activities of Vietnam, stretching from this northern part and reaches 1,800 km towards the south, ending at the estuary of the Mekong River.

  • (Left) Friendly tour guide: Mr Jee Say Hai from Malaysia with Ms Man Yu He, a very friendly and helpful local tour guide; photo taken in front of Ms Man's tour office in Mong Cai, 800m to the Vietnam - China border.
  • (Centre) Street trader: During the course of one day, variety of goods goes through the streets of Hanoi town. The goods are transported by bamboo shoulder pole, bicycle or in a basket carried on the vendor's head..... shoes, oranges, toilet paper, apples, bread, vegetable, doormats, plastic wares, ceramics, eggs, flowers.....like a walking supermarket. You can not complain about the choice. A four wheeled cart, like this street trader, increases turnover considerably simply because she offers more goods compared to the one who sells only one or two items.
  • (Right) Hawkering: Quite leisure, isn't that? Waiting for customers to buy their display. Sale may not be that good as the merchandise does not reach the customers' doorsteps!



After immigration clearance at the Vietnam side we walked towards the China immigration building about 200 meter on the opposite side. The Vietnam and China border is separated by a river here. The two immigration posts are linked by a concrete bridge. From the immigration building on the China side we took a 10 minutes tricycle ride, passing Dong Xing (Guangxi Province of China) town centre to arrive at the the main bus station.

  • (Left) Vietnam-China border : Joyful return from Vietnam! Most of the people crossing this border are Chinese tourists who join package tour that covers Mong Cai (border town), Halong Bay, Haiphong and Hanoi. The border that separate the two countries is the river that flows below the bridge.
  • (Centre) China-Vietnam Border : Entering China - the Chinese immigration entry point is on the right. Sometimes one has to queue up, rain or shine, outside the building. The exit point is on the left; you step out of the building after you have cleared the immigration and custom check points. The man in the picture is seen crossing the invisible border line - with one leg on the China soil and the other about to land on the Vietnam soil. The visible border line that separates China and Vietnam is the river below the bridge.
  • (Right) Dongxing (Guangxi Province, China) : After coming out from the immigration building we immediately landed on the road in Dongxing, the border town on the China side. The unique mode of transport within the town is by mean of human ridden tricycles. We paid 3 RMB for the 2 km tricycle ride to the bus terminal.



We took a bus from Dong Xing to Beihai (a sea port in Guangxi Province). From Beihai one can either take a ship or a bus to Haikou. The ship operates one trip each day, one each from the opposite direction. The scheduled time of departure is 6.30 pm daily (actual time of departure may be late pending discharge and loading of vehicles) and arrival time at Haikou is 6.00 am. the following day.

  • (Left) Dongxing-Beihai (Guangxi Province) Highway : The journey from Dongxing to Beihai City (a port cum holiday resort town in the Guangxi Province) is enjoyable; it takes 3 hours to complete the 190 km route by highway. I was quite surprise that the driver took the whole journey without a rest; any way I did not notice any resting spot along the route.
  • (Centre) Chong San Park, Beihai : Our first encounter of this park was in the previous night – there is an open air dance spot inside the park where couples, old and young, danced literally under the moon and stars! We were told that the dance pool was always full as soon as the music started.
  • (Right) Chong San Park : Morning scene where group of people, old and young gather here to practise Chinese cultural dances.



If you prefer to go to Haikou overland you may take the Beihai-Hai An bus. The bus operates a few trips daily. The land journey takes about 5 hours.

Photo from left:

Hai An Jetty, Guangdong : The ferry ship plying between the mainland (Hai Aun Port) and Hainan (Hai Kou port) provides 24-hour service; the fare for the 1hour 30 minutes ride is 37RMB. One have to take a 8 minutes walk to reach the bus station nearly; you may however opt for a tricycle ride for 1 RMB

On Board From Hai An To Haikou (Hainan Province) : At last we are on board the final public transport that bring us from Penang to our ancestral island of Hainan! The young girl on Ang’s left came from Xingjiang, currently studying in Chongking and now coming to Hainan to explore job opportunity after graduation; to some extent we have some thing in common: came from far far away to realize a dream!

Century Bridge, Hainan : This bridge is the latest landmark of Haikou, Hainan. Construction works commenced in April 1998 and completed in early 2003 at a cost of RMB667 millions. There are 6 vehicle lanes with pedestrian walk on both sides. The bridge is 2.7 km long and 30 m width.

Haikou Jetty, Hainan : The ferry that departs from Hai An Jetty in the mainland stops in this terminal in Haikou, Hainan Island. There are many eatery stalls as you come out from the ferry – as seen on the right side of this picture. You have to take a taxi that brings you to the town which is about 12 km away. You can now travel by rail, to any part of China, by boarding the train in Haikou; the train is ferried across the channel on board a special constructed ship.



Hainan became China's newly established province in 1988. It has an area of 34,000 sq. km. with a population of about 7 million. Hainan is rich in biological resources with variety of tropical crops; aquatic resources with many good natural habours, beautiful beaches and yet-to-be-exploited fishing grounds; mineral resources with petroleum, natural gas and good reserve of minerals; tourism resources with many attractions of international standard especially Hainan has broken the world record as host to 3 consecutive years (2003, 2004 and 2005) of the Miss World Pageant contest.



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  • (Left) Hainan New Generation : We met these new generation on the bus from Wenchang City to Hai Kou; they speaks fluent American English; incidentally all of them work in the city international hotels; the back ground shows the Hai Kou city high rise buildings (from left: Ang, Rachel, Frances, Tracy and Jee)
  • (Centre) Commercial complex : in the heart of Haikou City; there are variety of international branded goods on display, from textiles, electrical, electronic......you name it and you can find it here.
  • (Right) Food For Thought : If you are longing for Chinese nutritious food that bring you health, youthfulness and energetic look here is the place offering lots of dried sea food products that meet your need; you named them and they have them. It will be interesting to bargain along the way. Many of the stalls sell practically the same products and so you will have a good bargain as you go along sourcing for the best price.


To enrich the people the most important thing is to construct roads and ports to connect the various towns. China recognizes this fact; Hainan has benefited tremendously with the completion of the north-south highway; now you can even board a train from Haikou and travel to any part of China, a dream which our forefathers would not have thought of!


  • (Left) North-South Highways : This stretch of highway that links Haikou in northern Hainan and Sanya in southern Hainan brings about many changes between our forefather's and the present generation. The economy fact proves to be true: world evens like Forum for Asian has its permanent secretariat in Boao, off Qionghai City, Qionghai County; the holding of Miss World pageant in Sanya in years 2003, 2004 and 2005 are recent achievement that bring about prosperity and enhance that standard of living to the people of Hainan.
  • (Centre) Highway - Another Look : Convinced that Hainan is developing fast enough to meet the influx of tourists, domestic as well as international?
  • (Right) International Seaport : Xiu Ying Pier – we board the ship for Beihai (a sea port located in the southern Guangdong) from this pier. International vessels also call here regularly. The luxurious Pacific Cruise Princess Ming Hui operates special weekly tour package that cover Haikou-Beihai-Halong Bay City-Haiphong-Hanoi-Haikou tour.