Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hainan Island

*Picture: the famous Hainan beach outfits

Last weekend, Scott, Jamie, Lindsay and I rode the night train down to Sanya, Hainan Island, which is connected to the rest of China by a bridge. Zhanjiang is right at the southern tip of mainland China, about as close as you can get to this beautiful tropical island. We arrived early Thursday morning, and bummed around on the beach in our train clothes for about four hours before we could check in to our hostel.

The hostel was great; if you've ever staying in Sanya I'd highly recommend it. ( Located just five minutes from Dadonghai Beach, this place hosts lots of interesting travelers, has a friendly staff, and offers clean rooms with private bathroom for just $18 per night!

Anyway, the four of us had a wonderful time lounging on the beach, swimming, and exploring the island... all without attracting more than passing interest from Chinese tourists. Someone may have snapped a photo from time to time, but mostly I was too absorbed in enjoying the sun to notice. Because there are so many foreign tourists in Sanya, the locals don't pay much attention; we even played pick-up beach volleyball with a group of Chinese guys, which was a lot of fun even though the Chinese were exponentially better players than all of us!

One of the best parts of being in Sanya was observing the Chinese tourists at the beach, which is not their natural habitat. Large tour groups of grown men and women wear matching Hawaiian- pattern shirts and Bermuda shorts. Although some people do buy sandals to wear with their tropical attire, many choose to leave on black leather shoes and black socks to complete the bizarre look. One man I saw hop into the water in charcoal dress pants.

The Chinese descend upon the beach, put their feet in the water for the obligatory "peace sign" photo, and then scurry back to the shade to avoid getting any sun (dark skin= peasant). Many Chinese are weak swimmers, but that didn't stop them from testing out the famous Hainan ocean water- with the help of an innertube, of course. It was amusing to watch the mass of bright yellow rafts bobbing around within the roped-in swimming area. I even saw one middle-aged man wearing arm floaties! Excellent people watching, I must say.

Sanya has many excellent Western restaurants, so the four of us had our fill of cheese, Mexican food, pizza, mixed drinks, potato skins, and other "delicacies" hard to come by in Zhanjiang. We met other vacationers from Russia, Scotland, England, Canada and Sweden and all enjoyed hanging out and playing foosball & darts together.

After four days of sleeping in and not doing much else but eating and relaxing on the beach, I returned to Zhanjiang refreshed and ready to tackle another week. Not that this was too difficult, because I'm leaving town again this afternoon to visit Kevin Clancy in Zhuhai! Zhuhai is located right across the border from Macau, about 5 1/2 hours' bus ride east from Zhanjiang. Maryknoll wants to place teachers at a university there next year, so Scott and I are going to take a look and see what we think. Another weekend adventure, coming up!

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