Three weekends ago was the middle of our semester here in Beijing. In light of this, we were given Thursday and Friday off as a spring break. A group of us in the program had settled on our destination about a month prior to the break. We were headed to the city of Sanya on Hainan Dao Island. Hainan Dao Island is off the southern coast of China and just east of Thailand. In all honestly, we were treating ourselves. Hainan Dao is considered the Hawaii of China. The beautiful beaches, tropical weather, clean air, and good eating make it a frequent travel spot for many Chinese and Russians. We were trying to give ourselves a few days of sunshine, warm weather, and relaxation. I was particularly attracted to the trip because of the other attractions on the island: the monkey island, jungle hiking, and a small population of a particular Chinese minority. Unfortunately, those extra attractions did not follow through because most of them required heavy entrance fees or long travel days on the island. It turned out that we spent a great deal of time on the beaches, swimming, and enjoying the down time.
Our trip started out interestingly, as most of them do. Hainan Dao is quite a large island. It has two main entry points: Haikou and Sanya. Our plans had us staying in Sanya but flying into Haikou. Haikou is about a three-hour drive from Sanya. There is a bus, but Ken, the manager of our hostel, offered pick-up service for just slightly more money than the bus fare. Once off of the plane, we met our drivers waiting outside baggage claim, holding signs.
As we began to walk to the cars, one of the drivers handed me a cell phone. Confused, I took it. It was Ken. He explained to me that these men would take us to the hostel in Sanya. All seemed just fine. He then added, “And if anyone is to check on you, just tell them that these men are simply your friends. Nothing else. Just friends.” At that point my confusion came rushing back. “Okay,” I said, not wanting to inquire too much. He repeated himself then said, “And please make sure you tell everyone in your group that. See you soon.”
I started to wonder if we were headed to Sanya at all? Who were these men, and why do I have to tell someone if they ask that they are just my friends? The only thing that kept me from getting on the bus to Sanya was that this hostel, and Ken, had rave reviews online. I told the group, who seemed equally as surprised. We got in the cars and took off.
Luckily, not a single person stopped our cars or asked us anything. We arrived in Sanya to find Ken waiting outside of the buildings. As we settled into our rooms, Ken explained the whole story. Apparently, the government has set it up so that flying into Haikou is cheaper than Sanya. They then offer the bus service, which makes the difference almost disappear. Thus, the officials do not like it when travelers use private transportation to Sanya.
Our worries aside, we marveled at the view we had from our hostel room. In fact, our room didn’t seem very much like a “hostel” at all. It was amazing for the price!
We proceeded for the next few days to explore the different beaches that the island had to offer. Our favorite turned out to be Yalong Bay. Yalong Bay was about a 45-minute bus ride from where we were staying, but it was well worth it. The sand was clean and the water blue. We even found ourselves one day sitting poolside at a five-star resort. We had originally gone to eat at their restaurant. It turned out that the pool area was relatively empty. Nobody minded that we stayed the afternoon.
One day, three of us in the group attempted to venture to a small island off of Hainan. On our way, we took a taxi through some rural areas of the island. We saw a great deal of the beautiful countryside and local farming. We arrived at the place where we could take a boat to the island. It turned out that, as with every attraction on Hainan, it cost a great deal to get in. We decided it wasn’t worth it. Even our taxi driver told us in it wasn’t all that great. So, we headed back.
We did successfully visit one tourist attraction, The End of The World Rocks. The park was absolutely gorgeous. There were lawns and gardens that were beautifully manicured and beaches that were picture perfect. The highlight of our trip here was the boat ride we took. We each paid 50 RMB to take a small boat out to see the “Love Rocks.” The main attraction is a rock formation in the shape of a heart jutting from the ocean. After a few pictures, our drivers convinced us to throw them some extra money to see the marriage rocks that were further out. While less impressive, these little humps far off-shore were fun to see.
Walking around the park, we saw many Chinese tourists dressed in their one-piece tropical outfits. These were very popular across the island. My friend, Juan, and I even purchased outfits for ourselves.
It turned out that Sanya and Hainan Dao, while full of attractions, proved its value in the relaxation and easy-going nature it brought out in all of us. We all left a little more rested and relaxed than we had arrived.