Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sanya Beaches and Relaxation

After Yangshuo, we took a bus to Guilin where we again stayed at Liu Tao’s youth hostel for a night in preparation for our flight to Sanya. This time we paid for our room at the hostel because we would feel bad abusing his generosity towards Couchsurfers. We walked around the town that night, and enjoyed a beautiful atmosphere. Our guide book said Guilin would be overly crowded with tourists, but the city is big enough to hold a lot of people while giving everyone enough space to really enjoy it’s beauty. There were tons of mood lights all along the slow moving river and there were great paths to walk along it. We sat and watched an amazing violin player for a little while, which is probably why I remember the mood of the town being so serene and peaceful.

The next day we flew down to Haikou, a city in Hainan. Hainan is an Island in the south of China that many equate to being “China’s Hawaii”. We flew into Haikou on the north shore of the Island because it was cheaper, but our destination was Sanya so we took a bullet train (cost about $10 each) that got us there in about 2 hours while going 250 km/hr! So cool.

Once in Sanya, we took a couple of busses to try to get to our tiny little beach house where we booked an inexpensive room right on a beach. However, even though we got off at the right place, we couldn’t find the beach house by ourselves and no one there had ever heard of it. We asked the concierge at a resort where it was, and he helped us by talking to the owner of this beach house and she had us wait at the resort while she walked over to meet us. She walked us back to our rooms, and we were very pleased that we decided to stay there for two nights.

I posted a photo from our awesome room in a previous post andmentioned that unfortunately, the beach we were on was not a swimming beach. On the second day of our stay which happened to be my birthday, we went to visit a couple of swimming beaches. The first, Yulong Bay, had gorgeous views and incredibly fine sand. It was exactly what Americans typically picture when they think of a beach in paradise. We splashed around in the big waves and threw a disc around for a while and there were very few people in the ocean. Unfortunately, the only reason this one was so clean and impeccably nice was that the entire coast line of the bay was owned by “6 and 7 star resorts”. We walked through a couple of resorts and one of them had something like 4 outdoor pools with water slides and the works. While these resorts are great for people who want to spend tons of money, they suck for people who are living in budget rooms like Rachael and I because they don’t let you hang out on their stretch of beach. Rachael and I sat down on the chairs of one of the resorts and read our books for a couple hours, not exactly sure what the policy of the resort was. After a while, someone from the resort came and asked us for our room key and then kicked us out. It’s too bad this beautiful beach is only really friendly towards the people who spend tons of money.

Later that same day, we visited a less pretentious and highly recommended beach called Dadonghai. This one was totally free to the public, and the scenery and sand was just as nice as Yalong bay. However, it had none of the peacefulness that Yalong Bay had because it was jam packed with Chinese tourists. That being said, it was really fun playing in the giant waves with the masses of people who were all in great spirits and laughing all the time. At all times, there was another person within 3 meters of us, but I enjoyed the atmosphere here more than the stuffy one of Yalong Bay.

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After our two nights at the Papiluo Bluehouse, we decided to pack up and change our location to a youth hostel where the owner speaks English. As nice as our room was, we felt like we were a bit stuck and had no clue how to do anything except visit beaches. We checked into the Raintree Youth Hostel for a four night stay and this turned out to be a great decision.

Soon after checking in, Rachael got sick and then remained very sick through the following day. The hostel was in an area where we could go downstairs and easily find food, and there was enough to do in the hostel that we could take a full day off and not be too bored. One of the staff helped us move a DVD player into our nice AC room where we proceeded to watch a couple movies and read for most of the day.

Rachael felt better after the full day of rest and we went with Justin, the owner of the hostel, and a group of about 8 out to a remote bay for a day of water activities. The bay we went to had gorgeous, clean beaches and our group and one other were the only ones swimming in the entire bay. We swam, rode on a banana boat, tried standing on body boards being pulled by a speed boat, tried wake boarding, and snorkeled for a long time. Unlike my only other snorkeling experience, this one was actually good! I had very few problems with my facemask and I was able to see a ton of cool stuff under the water. This bay was quite undeveloped so we were able to see coral, sponges, anemones, crabs, hermit crabs, fish, urchins, sea cucumbers, and even several small jellyfish.

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On our final full day in Sanya, we went to see the rainforest. It sounded very cool, but turned out to be a frustrating and disappointing experience. The place we went was excessively developed and felt like Disney world. There was no resemblance whatsoever to any U.S. state or national park. The only paths in the rainforest were perfectly well kept walkways. All of these walkways were completely packed with Chinese tourists and all of the sounds of nature were drowned out by the tour guide speakerphones coming from every direction. The largest animal we saw were some small bats hanging on a rock overhang under a nice wooden bridge. Rachael, myself, and one of our friends from the hostel ventured off the trail a couple times which was fun for a few minutes until we ran into another walkway or were scolded by tour guides to stay on the walkways.

Despite the one disappointing day in the “rainforest”, our trip to Sanya was great and I’m glad we planned that into our vacation. We got to see a bunch of beaches, had fun playing in the water, and were able to relax a bunch more before what we knew would be a fast paced week with my family in Beijing and Shanghai.

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