day trip to Yalong Bay

I suppose that this post is not only a look and see for friends and family, but also a travel primer for other tourists who may come to visit Sanya and Yalong Bay.  The Sanya beach front tourist area is a packed high rise apartment and hotel zone nestled just on the south shore of Hainan Island.  Due east along the coast, about 40 minutes by bus, is the resort area of Yalong Bay.  The beaches along Yalong Bay while still somewhat crowded, are void of some of the pesky vendors that you find in Sanya that try to sell tattoos, kites, back-rubs, food and drink and of course motorcycle rides.  Perhaps nothing is as annoying as sitting on a nice quiet beach and some guy pulls up on a rumbling motorcycle, spewing noxious fumes, “hard selling” you that you need to come with him and take a motorcycle ride.  It is never ending and makes one want to abandon the public beaches of Sanya and head to the tourist zone at Yalong Bay.

The best time to visit the beaches in Sanya is in the morning (top photo) when there are fewer tourists and it’s not too hot out.  Aside from the annoying motorcycle vendors, you practically have the beach to yourself. But, as idyllic as this beach looks, directly behind you is the main highway with traffic and bus routes and tall apartment and hotel buildings (both photos below).

Fortunately, as in the rest of China, Hainan has wonderful public transportation.  We asked for quick directions to get to Yalong Bay and a western restauranteur pointed us towards this bus stop (photo above).  While there, we spoke with some expat Chinese (living in the west) who told us what bus to get on.  The busses don’t seem to have route numbers, but rather say, “Sanya to Haikou,” or something similar.  To help us out, the western-Chinese people wrote out (in Chinese characters) “Sanya to Yalong Bay,” we had to watch each bus and when we saw the two characters and a hyphen between them, we knew that it was our bus.

The bus was quite comfortable, and as in the rest of China, the people were friendly and curious of our presence.  While Hainan Island has a greater number of foreign visitors, we were still quite in the minority.  We would find that most of the Caucasian visitors in Yalong Bay were primarily Russian tourists – of the nuveau riche type.  The bus far was only about a dollar for the 45 minute ride, was air conditioned, and the roads were smooth and comfortable.

Running parallel and behind the main beach road, canals have been built in order to create additional “waterfront” property.  Some of the apartments along the canals and marinas also fetch hefty prices – Sanya is not cheap, expect western prices everywhere you go.  Really, the only way to save any $ at all while in south Hainan is to eat at noddle shops a block or two inland from the beach.  Anything with a view to the water, expect five dollar coffees.

The bus finally broke free of Sanya and wound through some beautiful countryside and farm land.  The workers were tending to their cane and rice and occasional water buffalos and white herons milled about in the muddy reeds.

The 4 or 5 mile long stretch in Yalong Bay is dominated by major hotel resorts, each of the top names having its spot along the sand.  Hotel guests are allowed access to the chase lounges all else have to pay a sitting fee of about $5-8 per chair for the day.  Cabana boys come by and take drink orders and a cocktail will set you back $10 to $12.  We did find a charming little restaurant near this pier that sold all sorts of yummy treats, including many vegetarian dishes (tofu on a stick flavored with garlic and grilled over an open flame was a favorite of Anya’s), beer at decent prices and a nice mix of expat travellers with whom we could chat.  We met some nice German tourists who invited us to hang out with them and share their beer stash that they brought along.  It seems that one young man is working for a German company in China and his sister and brother-in-law came to visit for a week.

This was the first time I saw it, but in my subsequent weeks at Chinese beaches, I would see again and again the Chinese burying themselves in the sand.  I surmised that for many, this was their first time to the beach and the feeling of the hot sand on their bodies is an unknown experience.  I think that every child in California has felt sand by the age of 3 or 4, but the excitement shown by the Chinese when they first get their feet into the sand, and then get buried in it tells me that it is their first time.

While visiting Dubai for the first time in 2002, I saw much of the same.  While on a desert 4X4 safari, as soon as we stopped in the middle of the sand dunes, all of the Chinese took off their shoes and shoved their bare feet into he sand and then chattered and laughed like children.  They seemed to be very excited at this new and unusual feeling.

We came to fall in love with Yalong Bay; it is such a relaxing place filled with quiet and peaceful bliss.  We would come to visit here again and again and I’ll post more on it later.  But if you’re staying in Sanya, even if for only a few days, I highly recommend that you take the local bus out to Yalong Bay and experience what it has to offer over the crowded Sanya public beaches.


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