Lara Goes Local ⑤:Haikou’s vibrant night life

By Cai Rong, Lara Netherlands / HICN / Updated: 09:35,02-September-2021

When I first arrived in Haikou, one of the most astonishing things for me was how alive the city becomes when darkness falls. It’s safe to go out at night, even as a woman alone. For me, this was a new experience. As a young woman from South Africa, it is incredibly liberating to enjoy this level of freedom.

One of the reasons people stay indoors during the day and come crawling out of their homes and offices at night is because of the weather. I love the blue skies and hot sunshine of my island home but, I have to admit, it’s a lot more comfortable after sunset!

When taking a night life tour of Haikou, I think the Hainan University Night Market is the best place to start. The street food here is tasty and inexpensive. From the signature snacks of nearly every province to some weird things that you only find at night markets, there’s a huge variety of dishes to choose from. This makes it a little confusing to pick which meal you want to eat but—if you go with friends—you can try a little of everything!

Aerial view of Hainan University Night Market. HIMC

Food in Hainan University Night Market. HIMC

Needless to say, because of where we are, the various Hainan local specialties tend to be the most popular stalls.

Whether you come in a group or go solo, there’s quite a communal feeling to sharing a table with strangers as you enjoy your dinner or late-night snack. Because I’m adventuresome and I want to try all the things, I recommend going with friends. Another bonus to going in a group is that the picky eaters get to choose something that appeals to them.

Lara is talking with people. SHI JUNHAO / HIMC

After dinner at Snack Street, my next stop was the Jiefang West Road neighborhood. This is one of many places to go shopping in Haikou. Because this is the oldest shopping district in Haikou, it’s the liveliest and I prefer to get my shopping done here. From mainstream brands to smaller boutique-looking shops and the shops for those who don’t go by brands, you can find anything you need in the wardrobe department – clothes, bags, shoes and accessories. Plus, whether you are window shopping or actually laying down some cash, the stores are all open till late at night. The cool evening air and the city’s street lights combine to produce a truly vibrant atmosphere that’s also a heck of a lot of fun.

Aerial view of Jiefang West Road. SHI JUNHAO / HIMC

After stocking up on some new pieces for my wardrobe, my next stop was Evergreen Park. This urban park is an ideal place to visit for people of all ages. It doesn’t matter if you want to chill or if you want something a little more exciting like a joy ride in the bumper cars. Growing old doesn’t mean you have to grow up and I still love that little dose of adrenaline from that or some of the carnival games. Designed to have something which appeals to all generations, it’s a great place for families who want to spend time together. The east side of the park also has a stretch of shops with live music bars, coffee shops, restaurants, a limited selection of street-food and iced drinks.

Bumper cars in Evergreen Park. SHI JUNHAO / HIMC

Leaving the park, I ended my night with a stroll along the footpaths beneath Century Bridge. The ambiance of this recently developed green area running from Xiuying Port all the way to Xinbu Island is incredible. Truly international. Coming here always boosts my mood. I like this section for the stunning Instagram-worthy views of Century Bridge all decked out in lights. You can often spot musicians singing and jamming in the open-air. There’s also a strip of really classy restaurants full up with people sitting both indoors and outdoors.

Century Bridge. HIMC

Restaurants full up with people sitting both indoors and outdoors. SHI JUNHAO / HIMC

The day time is for working but the night time is when Haikou truly comes alive. No matter where you go, you will see people from all walks of life: young and old, locals and expats, groups of friends, couples, students, families and—one of my favorite sights—the aunties in their matching outfits rehearsing their dance routines. Heading to Century Park, I think the thing that surprises me the most is how many different dance groups are out and about rehearsing their synchronized routines to perfection with their speakers blasted up high. I find it hilarious to stand between two competing groups and let my two ears pick up two different beats from two different speakers.

Whether you’re a social butterfly, or a lone wolf, the things you can choose to do in Haikou at night are practically endless! I do hope that if you ever visit or move here, you will be as wowed by the night life as I was!

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