I haven’t had a real vacation in almost a year and a half, which is possibly the longest I have ever went since I was hit by the travel bug. So, instead of planning my next trip, I have been spending my days (in my mind) back in the places I have most loved. Since it doesn’t look like we will be heading abroad for another year, I am resigned to replaying these wonderful trips over and over as some pathetic attempt to quench my travel-loving soul. Today I have had Sanya on the mind. The sights and smells of the exotic Chinese island have never left my memories, and occasionally some trigger will bring them flooding back like I was there yesterday. Sanya is one of those rare destinations that is relatively untouched by the droves of tourists, besides the Russians and Chinese in Sanya’s case. I will always hold fond memories of the morning walks I took down Sanya’s pristine beaches, all alone with my thoughts and the beauty of the South Asian Sea.
Sanya is located on the southern coast of Hainan Island, and is the smallest province in China. A short flight from Shanghai, it is easily accessible from the mainland. I stayed in a hostel close to the city centre and beach, that held regular barbecues for the guests with fantastic sea food. Unfortunately my bed was full of bugs and I woke up after my first night with bites on every piece of exposed skin.
I spent most of my time eating. I ate more fruit the week I spent in Sanya than in any other point in my life. And why not? Everywhere you go street vendors offer up fresh mangoes and pineapples, and other exotic Chinese fruit. The street vendors will willingly offer up free tastes, so don’t be shy if you are curious about a particular strange treat. At night the streets transform into a culinary wonderland for seafood enthusiasts, with every imaginable type of sea creature getting barbecued before your eyes. I didn’t ask many questions, because I don’t like to be limited by my own preconceptions of what is acceptable to be eaten off of a stick. I know that some things were much more pleasant than expected, and some things were way more putrid than I every could have imagined. I think eating local food is one of the best ways to experience a new culture, so it is very important to try, try, try.
If you have time for only one attraction on Hainan Island, make sure you visit the Guan Yin staue at the Nanshan Buddhism Culture Park. Currently the fourth largest statue in the world, Guan Yin is a spectacular vision to behold. The statue has three faces, two of which face the South Asian Sea, and one which faces China. Guan Yin is a messenger of blessing and protection for China, and the rest of the world. I have read some unhappy reviews about the extravagant price for admission into the park (around £16) but I think the cost is well worth the experience and view. There are also beautiful gardens to walk through, and gorgeous treks up the mountain.
Hainan Island should be on every traveller’s itinerary when visiting China. China is such a diverse country, and Sanya will definitely be unlike any Chinese city you have visited before. If I have one recommendation it is to wear sunscreen! My baby oil loving skin was shocked to discover the effect of tropical sunshine. Because of my own idiocy, I had the worst sunburn of my entire life, complete with pus-filled blisters and sleepless nights. It should be said that despite the bedbugs and blisters, my trip to Sanya was one of the most beautiful and interesting trips I have ever taken.