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Published: January 25th 2009
Sunset from our balcony.
The first semester is over, and the first week of our month of Chinese New Year holiday is over. And what a week it was... We left the cold weather in Wuhan last Sunday and headed due south to Hainan province and the most southern city in China, Sanya. It is only a two hour flight from here but a twenty degree Celsius increase in temperature, which is what we were looking for! Being as disorganized as ever, I booked the flight and the "hostel" online at the last minute so did not really have any idea what to expect when we arrived. We would have loved to have spent the whole month travelling but due to our last three summers of cross-country travelling and the fact that we are moving to another apartment in a few days, a week was the best we could fit in for now.
Sanya is the most southern city in China and a destination for many Chinese (and Russians) for winter holidays. It is about the same latitude as Hawaii with a sandy beach that stretches for about 17 kilometers. Located in the province of Hainan, the smallest Chinese province and biggest ocean island,
this developing area is a tropical paradise.
The morning we left, we got a personal phone call from the manager of the place we were staying to confirm our arrival that night. We were impressed before we even left home! As always, we were the only foreigners on the domestic flight out of Wuhan. I had brushed up on my Chinese and had my trusty little notebook in my shirt pocket at all times with translations for words like "airport", "domestic", "carry-on luggage", "passport", etc that I had been practicing for a few days. And I managed to tell the taxi driver that we wanted to go to the airport and direct him to the right spot to drop us off, something I could not have done a year ago. I have not used any little "direction cards" for months. When we arrived in Sanya, the "rogue" drivers descended upon us to get us to the hostel with initial costs of 120 yuan. Yeah, right...we had already been told by Ken, the manager of the place we were headed to not to pay more than 60. Thank God for the cell phone. I gave Ken a call and passed
the phone over to one of the metered drivers. He wouldn't take us for that price but handed us over to a "rogue" driver who would. Sanya is the first place we have been where the cab drivers ignore the meter and charge whatever they can!
Anyway, off we went to the "hostel". The room was incredible...a few steps to a fairly empty beach, seaview from the bed, full kitchen facilities, washing machine, and brand new. It was a 32 storey building that was phase three of a massive apartment complex. We later found out that these places are purchased by individuals and then many are rented out to vacationers such as us. Ken was in charge of renting out a large group of them under the name of Sanya Fourseasons Home. Of course, there were no other foreigners in sight..only Chinese families and couples there for the Chinese New Year holiday. But the place was incredible as you can see from the pics. We stayed the first four nights in one spot and then were slated to move to another apartment for the last two nights. Both places were equally fabulous! For at least four or five times
the money, we could have stayed in a Western resort hotel such as Howard Johnson, Holiday Inn, etc in a much more touristy area of the beach but from what we could see, the rooms were no better and it would not have been half as interesting!
We awoke the next day to a balmy 27 degrees Celsius and basked in the same temperature for the rest of the week. The empty beach stretched away in both directions below our balcony. Chinese do not like the sun. For the most part, the beaches do not come alive until the sun goes down, unlike the rest of the world! Trying to find sunscreen without "whitener" is always fun! We spent the first day on the beach and at the HUGE pool in the complex. The actual New Year's holiday started the day we were leaving so the crowds were not bad the whole time we were there. The incredible thing is that the place was so new that rooms were being furnished and completed just in time for the holidays and the elevators were still unfinished inside! But for 50 bucks a night we were not complaining.
a developing resort area. Most of the larger Western style resorts have been built in the last ten years. The city in general maintains a typical Chinese flavour..lots of street vendors, bartering for everything, endless honking, broken sidewalks, impromptu dancing and music on the beach, crazy drivers, dead chickens and pigs hanging from motorcycles, tons of bicycles...we love it. Looking down from the balcony at night, we could see small campfires dotting the beach and because of the New Years holiday, the fireworks never stopped. As we lay in bed every night, the sounds of the traffic along the beachside road did not end until at least midnight. Most nights it quieted down by midnight, but one night at three in the morning somebody decided that it was a good time for a few more colorful explosions!
By coincidence, there were a couple of great "Western" restaurants nearby along with the normal Chinese fare. We were only there for a week so we pigged out on the best burgers this side of North America at Fat Daddy's and had the best authentic Italian food I have ever tasted at Casa Mia. We have our fill of incredible Chinese food
the other 51 weeks of the year here in Wuhan! The American expat owner of Fat Daddy's gave us the "down and dirty" inside scoop on the city and was always fun to talk to when we stopped by for a beer or food.
One place we had to visit were the Nansian Hot Springs. Nancy remembered she had seen a show on TV before we moved to China about this place you could go where there were fish that ate the dead skin from your body...and thought that that would be great for her foot that had been in a cast for so long, lol. When I started looking into Sanya as a destination, I came across a blog entry by a young couple who talked about the Fish Therapy at a hot spring near Sanya. Bingo...we put 2 and 2 together and had to check it out. We took an hour long bus ride through the country and ended up at the resort. It has been awarded The Best Hotspring Resort in China and the Best Ecology and Recreation Hotel in China. Along with the fish therapy pool, there are almost 70 different natural hotspring pools of
varying temperatures and functions. They are all scattered through a lush landscape of tropical plants and hidden from view from each other. It was very easy to find one with nobody else around. But let's talk about the "fish therapy", that was the highlight of the trip!
We sat down in a pool that was full of small fish. Within minutes of sitting, or lying, these little things start chomping down on your skin! They start with your feet and, all I can say, is that it is incredibly ticklish until you get over the initial feeling! Just imagine hordes of tiny mouths pulling away little bits of skin from your body. The job they did on Nancy foot that was in the cast for six weeks was amazing. We should have had before and after pics. It was as smooth as a baby's bottom when they were finished with it.
Another day we wanted to go to a cave we had heard about. Well, we planned on taking a bus because we knew it was quite a ways away. Soon after appearing on the roadside to wait for the bus, we were approached by a three-wheeled motorcycle
and side car to take us where we wanted to go. These things are all over Sanya and cart people up and down the beach as well as along the roads of the city. You could say it is the modern rickshaw equivalent! But they are made for short distances not long hauls. I told the guy in my best Chinese and sign language that it was too far. But he wouldn't take no for an answer. Fine...way over an hour later, up and down mountainous back roads, through the countryside, on his little 125cc machine...I'm sure he wished he had said no! We had a great time, it was the next best thing to being on a motorcycle. We finally arrived at Nanshan Dongtian Park, a very large, beautiful oceanside National Park with lots of trails along the rocky coastline...and a little cave.
One night, walking along the beach in front of our building, we came across a group of about a dozen people, mostly women, pulling in a fishnet. This thing was stretched out to sea as far as you could see. It was huge and the fact that these tiny women were hauling it in by
hand blew us away. Nancy decided she would make a good anchor at the end of the line so marched up, wrapped the rope around her waist, dug in her feet and started pulling! I grabbed the line ahead of her and started tugging as well. It was not easy work and these people had probably been pulling for hours! Of course, the group got a kick out of the two crazy foreigners helping them out but they gave us a few pointers and were happy for our little bit of help. We also started something because a couple of other people then joined in and started helping out. Some tried to chat to us and wanted to know where we were from. It was a lot easier for the others since they had clip on harnesses that they wrapped around themselves and then leaned back on. When they had moved as far as they could, they unclipped themselves and moved to the front to start the process over. We never did see what was in the net. We stuck around for about an hour or so, and the net still stretched out to sea as far as we could
see in the dark. The next day we saw it piled up on the beach...what was in it will always be a mystery!!
Anyway, that is enough writing for now. I was gonna make this a couple of entries but decided to make this one big one instead. I hope I didn't lose too many people as a result!
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