Recently when we looked through old pictures, we realized to how many places we have been – long before we thought of or even started this blog. So, we decided to share with you once a week a place we explored in the past in our rubric “Been There Yesterdays”.
For Christmas 2013 we flew to China – it was the first time we visited this nation and saying that we have seen China would be absurd, as it is such a huge country! After spending a few days in Hong Kong, where we were freezing, we hopped on a flight to Haikou city on Hainan, an island in the South Chinese Sea and China’s southernmost province.
The city Sanya on Hainan Island is renowned for its tropical climate and has emerged as a popular tourist destination in the last few years with annually over 30 million tourists, mostly from mainland China and Russia. There are now over 100 hotels in Sanya, ranging from international brands to local managed resorts.
We stayed at the Ritz Carlton hotel at Yalong Bay, a luxury beachfront tropical resort where the mountains, rivers, sea and sky are matched in perfect unison.
Our days were spent enjoying the stunning beach at Yalong Bay, exploring the city of Sanya and Phoenix Island, admiring the Nanshan Temple and hiking in the Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park.
Unfortunately we did not spot any see turtles. The warm coastal waters surrounding Hainan Island provide critical foraging ground for green, hawksbill, and olive ridley sea turtles. Despite all three species being listed as critically endangered on the China Species Red List, a vast amount of illegal harvesting occurs, reducing their populations at an extraordinary rate. Organizations like Sea Turtle 911 work towards protecting and rescuing these species. You can volunteer with them if you have at least two weeks time, which we think is an amazing opportunity to learn more about sea turtles and work with local communities to build awareness about the importance of sea turtle conservation.
We also spent time relaxing in the resort and celebrating Christmas with my family.
A lot of effort was put into keeping up the Christmas feeling! We were surprised by the amount of (for our taste) tacky Christmas decoration and the live Carol singing especially because we were the only Westerners in the entire resort. It seemed they were mainly prepared for Chinese and Russian guests. The staff did not speak much English and often the menus or programs were provided in Chinese and Russian only.
We truly enjoyed our days on Hainan – the nature is breathtaking; we sometimes nearly forgot we were in China as it is such a different side of the country than what you expect. In case you visit Hainan, plan enough budget, it is a very very expensive place! (A coke at a beach shack for $7 anyone?).