As in other parts of China, food on Hainan is
taken seriously, but also has a fun side to it
No Visa Needed For A Taste Of Tropical China
Hainan Island is so far off the radar for Australian travellers that they don’t even notice the blip is now registering an ever-stronger signal. Less than 90 minutes’ flying time from Hong Kong’s congestion and pollution is a China few Westerners know about, let alone visit. Sanya, on the south coast of Hainan, is China’s southernmost point, bathed by the blues of the same South China Sea that laps at the tropical shores of Vietnam and the Philippines on the same latitude. Sanya is the place where Chinese and many others come to play in the clean air and sunshine; I heard passengers moan with relief and pleasure upon descending the steps from the plane into the sunshine on arrival at Sanya International Airport, one of China’s most amiable. With two enormous pineapples—a traditional symbol of welcome worldwide, but an especially apt one here in this beautiful place where they grow in abundance—flanking a decidedly unexpected wood structure with a soaring roof and efficient service that serves as the airport terminal, visitors are encouraged to relax and enjoy themselves from the moment they arrive.
No need to get out of bed for lovely views at Resort Intime
Why go to China just to go to the beach? Well, it’s not ‘just’ the beach; Sanya offers a lot more than sun, sea, and sand, though they alone seem to satisfy most visitors. Aside from the novelty factor—less than 500 non-Chinese Australians visited Hainan in 2009, making it something of an uncommon feather in the hat of adventurous travellers—visitors come to Hainan for the same reasons places like Bali, Hawai’i, and New Caledonia are popular: for a change of scenery, for the shopping, for excellent cuisine, especially seafood.
Sanya airport offers one of China’s most charming welcomes
Those who have been to China already know that food is a major aspect of Chinese life. In Sanya, seafood is fresh from the water and onto your plate within minutes. That may be expected on a tropical island, but the surprise in Sanya is that you can have it prepared Chinese style, à la nouvelle cuisine, or even Russian style, the latter thanks to the popularity of Sanya’s many plush resorts as places to escape harsh winters. One of the friendliest properties is Resort Intime, located on the beachfront with wonderful views of an intimate bay; most beaches on Hainan’s south coast are long strands, but Dadonghai Bay is a private world with lush hills running straight down into the sea.
Sundowners at sundown at Mandarin Oriental Sanya is a superbly serene experience
Resort Intime offers an array of room categories in a convenient location; many other resorts line the beaches out of town, with the beautiful Mandarin Oriental Sanya as a standout on a private beach more than a kilometre long. Mandarin Oriental properties the world over are famous for their culinary experiences, and the one on Coral Bay is no different. Dinner at Fresh sees exquisitely prepared dishes served only metres from the surf and makes a fine follow-up to pre-dinner cocktails on the deck to watch the sunset.
Resort Intime on Dadonghai Bay
The biggest surprise of all is that Australians and New Zealanders travelling in a group of five or more (and that includes a mom, a dad, and three kids) do not need a visa to visit Hainan Island if their visit is arranged through Hainan Tourism, making spontaneous travel to China a reality for those who like to travel at the last minute. Those travelling in twos can purchase a landing visa on arrival for much less than the cost of a normal Chinese visa issued in Australia or New Zealand.
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