Sanya is the second largest city of Hainan Province, the southernmost province of China. Sanya is located in the the southernmost tip of Hainan, thus being the southernmost city of all of China. It is also the only tropical major city in the country. There are about 500,000 people living in Sanya, but it feels bigger as there are constantly thousands and thousands of tourists here.
Sanya is a developed city with lots of new modern buildings and more under construction. The streets are in good condition. The city looks quite nice! It's quite a contrast compared to most other Hainanese cities, which are ugly and poverty stricken
. The relative weath of Sanya is due to the fact that it is built around tourism, and there are lots of tourists However, the actual local city of Sanya is not fancy, it's lot of run-down buildings, but it is super fun and the place to be here. The beutiful skyline of Sanya with various high-rise buildings (see pictures) is not actually the real city of Sanya, it's new residential areas adjacent to the city center. The city center is a lively, typical bustling Chinese city. Of course there are some new buildings there as well, but mostly it is the kind of place you see anywhere in this country, architectually that is - I think it it is special in its atmosphere.
Sanya is divided into four separate areas, if you like. There are Sanya City, Sanya Bay, Dadonghai and Yalong Bay. They are all on the beach, Sanya is all about the beach - there are tens of kilometers of beachline in this place. So the city is long and narrow, dominated by the omnipresent beach lined with palm trees.
Sanya City is the center described above plus new residential areas adjacent to it. It is where most of the locals live and it is bustling with shops selling everything and cars using their horns ten times in a second. Sanya City is also the place where cheap hotels can be found
. The beach is very crowded in this area, especially in the evenings when Chinese people gather to hang out. It is not, however, a very good place for swimming, as naturally the water is dirtiest here, but still rather clean, I must add. For me the most interesting area in Sanya City is Shangpin Jie and its surroundings, an island formed between two revers going through the city. It is the most local and liveliest area of the city with good restaurants, bustling narrow alleys with lots of street food, good shops, cheap prices and friendly people. It could be called the old city, the Sanya before the tourism industry came. The buildings there are quite horrible, but who cares! It is the area where all the young people what to live in Sanya. Go there and you understand, but mind all the garbage and smells on the streets!
Sanya Bay is west from Sanya City, and can be reached along the beach road in about 10 minutes with a bus or taxi. You can also walk the way along the gorgeous beach - I have done it many times, it takes around one hour. Sanya Bay is a huge line of resort after resort, it is actually 10 kilometers of resorts. Fancy ones, not so fancy ones, big ones, small ones, holiday apartments, international, local - everything. It is quite a good place for resort hopping if you are in to that! There are some new residential areas too in Sanya Bay, are more emerging all the time
. This is the place where to be in the future. Now it is still rather quiet, with lot of construction going on. In the middle of Sanya Bay there is a small area with quite a lot of bustling restaurants and streets barbeques, but otherwise it is half-empty resorts and residential buildings. Basically people take the bus to Sanya City to have fun. However, the beach in Sanya Bay is a hell of a lot better than the one in Sanya City (although the same beach). Sanya Bay is also where is the largest hotel in whole of China, Howard Johnson Resort with more than one thousand rooms. I can't stop wondering that do all these hotels really have enough costumers outside Chinese Spring Holiday? I have walked along the whole Sanya Bay and most of the hotels seem rather empty. Anyway, Sanya Bay is a lovely yet quiet place, and I think this is where the future of Chinese tourism is. Now it is mostly for Chinese tourists, while most of the foreigner visitors go to Dadonghai and Yalong Bay.
Dadonghai is east of Sanya City, about ten minus bus drive away. By the way, the same bus goes all the way from Sanya Bay to Dadonghai. Dadonghai (literally "big eastern sea") is the tourist ghetto of Sanya, still mostly dominated by russian and other russian speaking tourists, in addition to Chinese tourists, of course. Dadonghai lies between Mount Tuziwei and Mount Luhuitou and thus is beautifully surrounded by green hills
. The beach in Dadonghai is just over 2 kilometers long and constantly packed with tourists, but still enjoyable. There are several beach front bars and restaurants (something missing in Sanya Bay), making it a very good place to spend the evening. The hotels in Dadonghai aren't generally as good or as big as in Sanya Bay, but the area is much more lively and intense, better for a tourists searching for activities and life. Sanya Bay is better for just laying on the beach. Note that there are public sun beds in Dadonghai (for charge) whereas in Sanya Bay sun beds exist only in hotels' private beaches. Due to the huge number of Russian tourists, Dadonghai is full of signs in Russian, so it is not a place for everyone. Certainly my fellow countrymen wouldn't appreciate it.
The most luxurious area of Sanya is Yalong Bay. It is where all the international five star resorts are - Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, all next to each other. It is approximately 20km east away from Sanya City, with more than 7km of white beach. Indeed, the beach and the sea are without a doubt the best in Yalong Bay, thus all the international hotels. It is a lot like in Thailand. It is the best beach in Hainan island. That being said, to me it is a bit boring place. I went there once. It is only a resort area, whereas the three other areas are mixtures of resorts and locality. There are fancy resorts with private beaches and that's it
. Surely it would be a nice place to spend a beach holiday, but those are not really for me. And it is also significantly more expensive than Dadonghai or Sanya Bay. Well, there is also a public beach in Yalong Bay and a recently built restaurant area, but there is absolutely nothing Chinese there. I'm sure you can imagine the place with this describtion. A beautiful beach and sea, but not that interesting. Oh, for golfers, Yalong Bay has the best golf courses of Hainan.
I have enjoyed my three and half months in Sanya quite a lot and looking forward the rest of the time here. It is a beautiful city (at least compared to most of China's cities), there is lots to do, the beach is gorgeous and the weather is hoooot. It's almost 30degrees here every day, which I am glad about. I really got angry with the Finnish winter this year.
Stay tooned for other entries I am going to write about my experience in Hainan! I have done some trips and going to write about them, later.
So I came to Sanya about three and half months ago and have been enjoying the place a lot. I tell more about what I have been doing here in later entries, this entry is just an introduction to Sanya.