April 5th is the date of “tomb sweeping day”, like a chinese day of the dead. It is a time when ancestors tombs are swept and cleaned, flowers are left and paper money is burned. Well, and of course there is fireworks.
For this holiday I sneaked away for three nights in sunny Sanya. Sanya is located in the south of Hainan island which is China’s smallest province and also holds its most dense forest area. Unfortunately, with only two days full to explore I stuck to the beaches, but hope I can get some time to come back and explore the seldom visited highlands.
I went with two friends and we arrived in the late evening to our quiet and tropical hostel along the Dadonghai bay. It was reasonably priced and close to the action. We set out immediately to get some food on the ever populated coast lined with restaurants and bars.
It is only in the last 20 years or so that Hainan has become the tourist destination it is today and I would say the great majority of the tourists are actually from neighboring Russia rather than mainland China. In fact, most of the signs and menu’s are written in chinese and cyrillic especially in the Dadonghai area. It is actually very rare to hear any English at all on the island. Unless of course, it’s the music. On our hunt for our first nights dinner we were overwhelmed with the cover bands and loud music which blasted over every restaurant. So much for a nice relaxing dinner on the beach. We heard Guns and Roses, Shakira, Katy Perry and but of course Lady Gaga.
The next day we set out on foot to try and conquer as much land as we could in the morning. Unfortunately we hit a wall at every turn and just could not quite get our bearings to the geography of the city, so we settled for a day on the beach instead.
For 25 RMB a piece we set up camp on the beach with some chairs and an umbrella and set out for a day of sun, swim, food and booze. We combed the beaches and bought ocean souvenirs. It was a day of nothing and a day of everything, just what the Dr. ordered.
After experiencing the horrors in the quality and the prices of the food in the touristy restaurants we headed to downtown Sanya to get some local flavor. We found a nice little spot with good cheap food which could have been a chinese Denny’s for all I know. This restaurant was also located in the middle of bar street where all the alleys were filled with clubs. We peeked our head in a few, but it was only bottle service and we felt a little outdoor roaming would better suit our needs.
On the way back we met some Germans who had just themselves met and proceeded to spend the night drinking beer on the beach and having strange conversations. Hey, at least I got to practice my German.
The next day we booked a boat to the island of Wuzhizhao through our hotel. Early to rise we munched on our complimentary breakfast and awaited our ride. We were joined by a nice family from Russia. The husband is from Sweden, the wife from Moscow and they met in New York. They chose to move back to Moscow and had a son who is 11 and speaks English, Swedish and Russian. They were a wonderful family and it was an honor to meet them an spend part of our trip to the island with them.
A short car ride we arrived at the ferry dock and took the short 15 minute ferry ride to the island. Although it was small island and there was a great deal of nature it was definitely chinese as far as cars and cement and construction and restaurants go. Unfortunately there is only one beach dedicated to swimming which lies right next to the ferry docking and is packed to the gills.
We tried to cover as much as we could on foot and the first stretch of beach that we hit was terrifyingly dirty and filled with chunks and pieces of trash. There seemed to be a large amount of rubber gloves that resembled floating hands.
There was a nice swimming pool along the beach that laid behind a juice hut where we drank coconut smoothies. It was fortunate that the pool was so close and it brought back the joy in our arrival of Hainan.
We continued around the island until we were allowed to walk no more. For protection of the island, one half of the island was off limits to foot traffic and was only allowed to be reached by a trolley. I think this was to protect the land from trash and other human disasters but it was disappointing all the same. We opted not to take the trolley and walked all the paths which could be covered by foot.
I probably would not recommend this island to people to visit especially if they are looking for a beach to lay on or a place to swim. At the same time if I had not visited the island I would have wondered what it was like. So regardless the trip was worth it and we got to meet the wonderful family from Russia.
Once back to the hostel we ran to the beach to get the last minutes of the beach. A bit more sun and swimming and Liz and I also had a foot massage on the beach where we met the happiest, funniest most amazing man. Obsessed with the show friends he told us how he learned all his english from watching american movies. He also told us of the pro’s and con’s of dating chinese men.
It would have been nice spend more time on the island, but all in all it was good to get away. I came back a little more tan, with more excitement about New York and some German practice under my belt.