A seaside wedding
Trip Start Nov 26, 2007
44Trip End Apr 17, 2008
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Where I stayed
We arrived in Guangzhou an hour late. Guangzhou was pretty much organized chaos. The scene outside the station was classic China with whole families pitched up with duvets ready to spend the night there; presumably waiting for their train in the morning
Sanya is a gorgeous beach resort. There are lots of hotels and apartment buildings but most of them constructed tastefully. The beach itself is clean and the water warm. The weird thing about Sanya is the quantity of Russians; they outnumber Chinese tourists by 10 to 1. Shop signs are in Russian and there are Russian bars/restaurants. As is the norm for Russians the pretty women tend to have their long legs out 24 hours a day while the men favor walking around in Speedos. One thing that they did have right in the hotels was giving them free dressing gowns so one is at least spared the Speedos at breakfast time as they piled their plates high with dumplings and pushed you to the side in the scramble for food. We never found out what happened to all the Russians the rest of the day; the only ever seemed to be around at breakfast time. The Chinese people who are holidaying in Sanya wear the most outrageous Hawaiian shirts, shorts and hat combos. Apparently it all comes from the fact that they like to buy these matching (yes, couples by matching outfits) sets so that people know they have been to Sanya when the step off the plane back home.
All the wedding party was staying in InTime resort, a 5 star hotel complex right on the beach. The hotel was great with 2 pools, beach, several restaurants etc. We spent most of our time there and enjoyed several free breakfasts and use of the pool whenever we wanted. In the evenings after dinner we usually just got some 30p bottles of beer and sat by the pool rather than using the services of the ₤2 per bottle bar in the hotel.
I have to say Dave and Jings wedding has been one of my highlights of the entire 6 months traveling. We did so much and had such a good time that I think I have to break with tradition and break my blog into day by day reviews for the first time. As Dave and Jing had already been married back in Guiyang the week in Sanya was mainly a celebration of the marriage and was a bit of a fusion of English and Chinese traditions.
But first the list of principle characters:
Dave and Jing: The wedding couple. Dave used to be a colleague of mine at GV. He met Jing while on an install in Guiyang in China about 3 years ago and has since moved out to China still working for GV and one of its successors. Dave has leant excellent Chinese and it is very entertaining to watch him launching into a Chinese conversation with someone. He even did a speech at the wedding in Chinese which was amazing skills. Jing speaks perfect English and went her way all week to make sure that we were well fed and never had to arrange anything for ourselves.
Steve and Fay: Dave's parents from Oldham. Truly lovely people who fitted right in with all the younger people who were there.
Steve and Adam: Dave's brother (and best man) and his 5 year old son.
Damian and Emma: Another 2 old GV colleagues who usually go to Roskilde with us each year as well. Damian and Emms have the perfect relationship and always seem so happy with each other it is difficult to fathom many people meeting such perfect partners. For me this was summed up the night Damo wanted to stay out and Emma asked him to walk her back to the room so he could get the key and he just said he was drinking and would get another key from reception later. Most boys would have automatically trotted after their girls when they said this and most girls would have kicked off at their boy saying this but this was just fine in their relationship. Damo has a bit of an obsession with Stoke City and scarcely a moment goes by without some mention of Stoke...somehow he even seems to think Chinese and Russians will have heard of the mighty potters.
Matt and Emily: Old uni mates of Dave's from Manchester. They came all the way from Chicago where Emily is a particle physicist.
Jeff and John: Old mates of Dave's from Manchester. It turns out that Jeff still goes to the Red Lion to watch United and John used to live just across from my house. Both were top lads; by two days in I felt I had known both of them for years. Jeff is a plumber while John is a currency dealer in the City. Neither could believe what easy life's all of us lot had during the GV days.
Jing's family: Jing had 5 family members at the wedding that came with us for all the meals and played in the pool but didn't really engage in the stupidity partying that the rest of us did over the week. As they had already been married in her home town her parents didn't come to the celebration.
After checking into the hotel and showering Dave and I set off down to the beach to hook up with the rest of the wedding party. As is normal with these things the 1st day is an onslaught of introductions and subsequent forgetting of the names but I pretty much settled down with Damian and Emma and caught up with what has been going on back home over a few beers on the beach interrupted by bobbing into the sea for the odd swim. The few beers turned into quite a few and before we knew it we were getting hustled off to a restaurant by Jing. The meal was typical of those that were to follow; loads and loads of really good quality Chinese dishes (including dumplings, stir fry's, rice etc) put on a rotating table top and we all just helped ourselves.
After the meal we all went back to the hotel and settled down in a gazebo with a load of Tsing Tao from the supermarket watching the Russians in their dressing gowns going for late night swims. Dave had soon taught me how to say hello in Russian so I said hello to the next Russians that walked past and before we knew it were heavily engaged in a vodka session with two bears of Russian men. One we never really got the name of as he downed 2 half pints of vodka in one, had an arm wrestle with Damo and then passed out to get eaten alive by the mosquitoes. The other, Michael, was a top lad. He was in Sanya with his family (his wife eventually came and extracted him from our little party). Michael was a Russian 'policeman' who had fought in Afghanistan and certainly came across as more KGB than standard police. I had a long conversation with him about how his favorite Russian was Stalin. He claimed that Russia needed a strong leader...'like your queen' was my favorite quote.
The vodka the Russians had was unlike anything I have ever tasted before; it was so smooth you could just drink it, though I think we were all happy when the bottle was eventually polished off. As I had been up since 5 am pretty much I had to slip off to bed around 2ish.
Day 2 was the stag do so the boys got the choice of the activity. Eventually it was decided on fishing but that everyone should come along. Fishing mainly involved going on a boat trip with beer and food. We stopped to do some fishing for about 2 hours but the only things we caught were some little tiddlers including one Finding Nemo type fish which was allowed to die in a bucket on the boat. It was brilliant though just to sit on the boat in the sunshine (despite the fact that rain had been forecast for Sanya the sun was out and temperatures were 35oC the whole time we were there) without a care in the world.
In the evening we went for dinner...we tried to go to a different restaurant from the night before but they refused to give Jing the local menu (apparently they have several different menus in most places - a Western menu, a Chinese tourist menu and a locals menu with prices going down 50% each time) so we went back to the same restaurant again...this turned out to be a bit of an ongoing pattern for the evening as you will see below.
After the meal UK crew of Dave's mates and his brother set off to the local bar street to have the stag do. Dave was soon relegated from taking part in any negotiations to do with getting us into a bar after we had wandered around discussing prices and had even got in and sat down in one bar only to leave as they refused to give the deal they had discussed with Dave outside. I took on the mantel for the next bar and nearly did exactly the same after a sudden table cover charge was revealed once we got inside but fortunately they let us stay and let us buy 12 bottles for 10 quid all night. The service in these bars is amazing; there is always a girl on hand to open a new bottle for you. It gets to the stage that you no longer know who actually works in the bar as quite a few of the girls in there seemed to be employed by the bar just to dance and make the place look busy. The evening started off calm enough but soon deteriorated into a gambe fest (gambe means cheers in Chinese and has to result in the downing on whatever you have in your hand) accompanied with lots of dice playing and eventually resulted in everyone dancing with the locals. I was on the podium at one point but had to get off as some Chinese guy who seemed to be a bit gay seemed to have his heart set on me. Emma totally lost the ability to stand on her two feet. My mate Dave tried it on with some Chinese girl until a local smashed a glass with intent nearby. Steve called me over to interpret what some girl was trying to tell him, when I couldn't understand either she just typed 'sex' into her mobile phone and we had to run away.
Soon enough Jeff had moved us onto the vodka (after telling me to negotiate the price to 200 Yuan a bottle which I managed to do after calling the manager of the bar down to the table) and 'drink with Dave' started. Basically 'drink with Dave' involved everyone gambe-ing a drink with Dave only Dave's vodkas were being made stronger than anyone else's. This soon had the effect of making Dave pass out on top of Emily and going to sleep. That is until Emily was replaced by Matt and Dave promptly spewed up all over Matt's and the club. And that was the end of the stag night.
My new found negotiating skills were also tested out in the taxi home when he tried to charge us 10 times the normal price. Opening the door of his cab as he was driving along a dual carriageway seemed to get the point across and we paid 40p for our ride back. Damian was so impressed with his female tuk tuk driver that he paid her 10 times what she asked for and told her to take the rest of the night off.
Me and traveling Dave stopped off in one of the Ruskie bars on the way home but found the atmosphere truly intimidating so only had one and then home to bed.
I was hoping for a bit of a long lie after the stag do but had conveniently forgotten about the planned trip to Wuzhi Zhou Island until Damo texted me so off we set (without traveling Dave who had been destroyed by the previous night's activities and spent the day in bed). The island was gorgeous if a bit pricey (3 quid an hour for sun beds is pretty bad anywhere really least of all China). The day was perfectly relaxing with lots of activities for those who wanted them. Dave and Jing went scuba diving but the rest of us just settled for the banana boat ride which was a bit slow and disappointing in the end. Steve lost his tooth in the sea and spent several hours looking among the pure white coral for a pure white tooth...amazingly he never found it.
As it was the day before the wedding we had planned to have a nice quiet night. We went to a fish restaurant for tea which was very nice if a little bit messy with all the shell fish and prawns etc. When we got back to the gaff we were just having a quiet beer before tea before Dave came down and announced that he and Jeff needed to blow up 300 balloons to define 2 ten metre walkways that the bride would walk down. Jing had decided this would be the way forward at 10.30 the night before the wedding. As it would be an almost impossible task for 2 people Damo, Emma, Dave and I also mucked in. This eventually became the most hilarious part of the whole week. As we blew up balloons the would spontaneously burst as they hit the ground and every time they burst the staff would come out and tell us to go elsewhere and Russians would peer from their balconies looking for Japanese snipers. Eventually we got quite a production line going and made about 4 metres before the balloons ran out.
The wedding day. As we had been blowing up balloons till after 2am I didn't feel the freshest when the old alarm went off at 8am...the cumulative effect of overnight trains and nights out had really started to catch up with me by now. The day didn't start off well at all when I went to tell reception in our place that we would like to stay another couple of days and was told that all the rooms were full. So we had to have a panic pack (into my wet rucksack as I had just washed it since a cat had pissed all over it when I left it at reception in Huang Shan) and then run over to the others hotel. Damo had ordered an iron for me to sort my shirt out but this turned out to be delivered as a bag of ice so I just had to grab one of his shirts and go with that. In the end I actually became very attached to the shirt and it brought tears to my eyes handing it back.
The wedding started with a bang and continued with a lot of bangs as the balloons we had blown up the night before kept spontaneously bursting in the very hot sun. Damo, Emma and I had real trouble controlling our giggles every time a balloon burst during the ceremony. The ceremony was lovely; Dave's dad did the vows in English and Jings family did a Chinese speech and translated to English. After rings had been exchanged we all had to light a candle in a traditional Chinese ceremony.
After the ceremony we all went down to the beach for photos. It was pretty bizarre having a crowd of Russians standing around in their Speedos taking pictures of the wedding party. We then went for another slap up lunch in the hotel (I was regretting by this point stuffing my face with free bacon and eggs at the breakfast in the morning) where the champagne started flowing. After the speeches and exchange of presents Dave and Jing wanted to jump into the pool. This has to be first time I have seen or heard of a wedding party all jumping into a swimming pool (see attached video)...I duly warned everyone not to jump in with their mobile phones and cameras...only to then jump in with mine...bloody idiot.
The rest of the day was then spent relaxing by the pool before the buffet bbq in the evening which included free beer. After that we all relaxed by the pool again most of the evening...Damo, John and myself not getting to bed till after 4am. I felt really bad the next day and started to come down with some kind of cold.
After the ceremony, Jane, the woman who ran the hostel we were staying kindly rang to say she had managed to juggle rooms to make us some space so my technique of almost crying in the morning when she told us we had to check out worked a treat!!
After that the rest of the gang were around for another 1.5 days and we just relaxed in the sun playing basketball in the pool for hours on end and eating lots of buffet in the evening. By this time my heavy party days were over and even gin and tonics could not liven me up by the last night. Damian somehow managed to keep going and even managed to lose his glasses frolicking around in the sea at 4am in then morning on the last night before Dave saved him from potentially drowning.
The whole wedding was an amazing experience and I am so glad Dave and Jing invited me. I feel like I made some good friends for life and would love to come back to Sanya with me own bird one day. It was quite sad saying goodbye to everyone and felt rather lonely once they had gone. It did make me think about some of the people I miss back home.
A complilation of everyones pictures done by Jeff