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Trip Report – Sanya/Yalong Bay on Hainan Island, China

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There wasn’t too much info about travel to Sanya so here’s our detailed trip report about how we got to and from Sanya to do nothing but lie in the sun. Overall it was nice and relaxing so we'd do it again.

A week ago Thursday we were in Shanghai with nothing planned for the weekend so I got online and booked flights via e-long and hotel reservations at the Hilton Sanya Resort and Spa via the Hilton website. Our friends gave Marriott and Sheraton high marks but we chose this hotel because it was the newest, having just opened in March.

We flew out of Shanghai Pudong at 11:30am on Friday via China Southern. I don’t think I’ve ever flown China Southern and I certainly never will again. The plane freaked us out. There was a piece missing off the chair in front of us and my husband’s chair wouldn’t stay upright, but worst of all we decided that there was no way anyone would be able to remove the mid-cabin emergency exit door if it was required. It looked like an additional row of seats had been added which left little room to get the door off and into the cabin with or without a disorderly crush of people pushing from behind. Fortunately we were seated in row 13, which was the other row of seats in front of the exit door.

We departed 20 minutes late after waiting on the hot, humid, sweaty tarmac for a few straggling passengers to board. We arrived at Sanya Airport that same 20 minutes late. As we didn’t know how long it would take to get to the hotel we decided to use the WC just in case. Unfortunately the men’s was out of order. The ladies was functioning but there was water all over the floor and it smelled of urine. Note that the furthest toilet from the door is western style and it was stocked with TP.

We picked up our luggage quickly and went to get a taxi. As our western faces emerged from the terminal we were swamped with taxi offers. Unfortunately, though, we did not speak the same language and for reasons unknown I didn’t bring the hotel name written in Chinese. We felt that some of the drivers were scammers. We finally found a driver who said “Yalong Bay” and “meter” so we were on our way. He had no idea where in Yalong Bay he needed to go, but we were able to read hotel names in English from signs and told him in Chinese which way to take us. Certainly pointing would have worked too. We arrived at the Hilton in about 45 minutes at a cost of 131.50 RMB. We pulled out 130 RMB and were still fishing for the remaining 1.5 when he thanked us and left. Walking in we saw a van arrive with people from our flight and we supposed that the hotel offers a pick up service. Could be something to look into if you’re not comfortable with local taxis.

Check in went very quickly in their humid, open lobby, and the ice tea they served helped keep us cooler. Our room was on a high floor (6) of building 6 facing the ocean and looking out over the Hilton’s playground and the back of the Marriott’s beautiful pool and grounds. (IMHO the Marriott grounds are much prettier at night than the Hilton. Very cool pool!) We loved our room. It was obviously brand new, had ample room, was well decorated, had comfy chairs on the balcony, a comfy bed, pillow menu… thumbs up! Huge massage menu too. We then went downstairs to explore when it began pouring rain – I mean a torrential downpour! Unfortunately their floors don’t have the proper angle to shed water away from the building so they hurriedly blocked some doors off with sandbags as well as parts of their front entrance porch. Some poor people stood out there sweeping water away from the building. The rain went away quickly and soon dried up.

I’ll summarize the next 36 hours as sleep, eat, rest, eat, sleep, etc. There are not too many places to eat in the area outside of hotels. Hilton has a broad breakfast buffet offering American, Continental and Asian options. Our first night we ate at the Marriott’s Indochine which was very good Vietnamese food. The second night we took a risk to eat at Fuguan Seafood, which is toward the bottom of Marriott’s exit driveway. DO NOT EAT AT FUGUAN SEAFOOD! As can be expected they tried to up-sell everything and push us to order expensive food. (“People say the Durian is good. You should try!” Uh, no, we happen to know what durian smells like!) The bad parts were: 1) Live ant in one of the food bowls which the waitress helpfully shooed away when I mentioned it. 2) Charging us for things we didn’t order. We counted the items so we knew it was wrong so we asked for a menu and matched prices to determine the extra charges. 3) Food poisoning. It was probably lighter for us because we’re pretty strong from living in Shanghai. 4) Most embarrassingly, we were taken by a typical scam: the fresh fish. After passing on the lobster and blowfish we chose some random fish from the tank. They put it in a plastic basket which they say had a tare weight of 0.3 later subtracted from the 1.9 total. 1.9 what you ask? Who knows! Anyway the charge ended up being 368rmb just for the fish (yup, $50) which we argued about and eventually threw a lower amount on the table and left.

The trip back to Shanghai was uneventful. We left the hotel at 7:10am for our 9:00am flight. The taxi took 35 minutes and cost 100RMB off-meter. (Without asking, the Hilton doorman told us it would be 100 before we left.) There’s not much to do at the a/p. There were a few booths/salespeople selling overpriced necklaces of shell and pearl and some food, but that’s about it. We secured our exit row seats for the partially empty flight back to Shanghai that arrived on time.

Just for fun we took the Maglev train from Pudong a/p toward the city. (The line ends in an outer suburb.) Seems like it cost 40 RMB p.p. if you had your airline ticket and 50 if you didn’t. Of course we no longer had ours so we paid the extra buck. Supposedly it’s a 7-minute trip but I wasn’t paying attention cuz I was focused on getting a glare-less photo of the speedometer showing 431 km/h. The maglev was fine but nothing I’ll ever do again.

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