Sanya - the end of the world
The tourism authorities in Sanya haven't been to Hawaii. If they had, they wouldn't ram the mantra "it's just like Hawaii" down your throats constantly. It's not like Hawaii. It never has been, and it never will be.
Sanya is pleasant. It is warm. The people are friendly. There is a lot to see and do. But Hawaii? I don't think so.
Hyperbole and exaggeration are the name of the game in Sanya, China's southernmost city, and the authorities run the risk of alienating visitors with promising far more than can be realised. I like Sanya, I like the countryside there, and I want to go back, but not for any of the vapid reasons that the weedy, hapless marketing brochures suggest.
Sanya is developing fast and furiously, and with seemingly little concern or a master plan for how it will eventually turn out. This is a city of neon, plazas, sidewalks and rather sterile seafronts. Increasingly the little businesses - good old Mr Wang with his beachside barbecue grill and a refrigerator full of beer - are being squeezed out by featureless, characterless new buildings where the rent is too high (and so they remain empty).
Urban Sanya and the beachfront in every direction are filling with high-rise apartment blocks, huddled together mercilessly. The buyers are mainly the Shanghai and Beijing upper middle classes who believe that what is in the marketing brochure is what they will get when the builders move out. The succession of sorry, concrete festooned, decaying towers everywhere suggest they may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Sanya is not quite such a new place as you might imagine. An earlier settlement here was called Yazhou, and its remains can be visited - in fact, it's in Yacheng about 40km east of Sanya. Along those 40km, Sanya is plugging every natural gap of fields and greenery with new temples, theme parks, hotels, karaoke bars, apartments, villas and other miscellaneous 'touristic facilities' or 'cultural' parks to satisfy the danwei tour groups that pile down here en masse from Friday night to Sunday evening. The upside is that Sanya is a happening place, with good entertainment nightly, plenty of action sports, loads for the kids, and dining focused on groups of 50. This is Benidorm-on-the-South-China-Sea: the beer is flowing, the drunks are wheeling, and sunburn the ubiquitous souvenir. Yet in among this frenzy of commercial exploitation is a city that is interesting, that feels real, and that can provide at least of week of lapping up the sun, swimming off sandy beaches and seeing a fascinating part of China.
The city is well linked by air to most big cities in China, and also to Hong Kong. When the Haikou train-ferry becomes fully operational, the city will also be more acessible to the hard-class tourists of Guangzhou and further afield. For now, its just you, a lot of Russians, big-money from Hong Kong, and the east coast nouveau riche flashing their fake brands and Hawaiian shirts. Follow that flag and catch a load of that touristic facility!
LOCAL PLACES TO VISIT:
I have written a few pages about nearby towns and places.....
Yacheng and Yazhou
Liaolianxia and Ganshiling