This is China
Jeremy of TravelFreak recently suggested that myself, Nomadic American, and he team up to popularize a #thisischina hashtag on Twitter. Lord knows, we encounter plenty of strangeness every day we spend in China as its old traditions struggle to make way for the country’s rapid westernization.
It seems fitting then that, on a bright sunny Christmas morning on the beaches of Sanya in China’s southernmost province, we’d find the Easter bunny just going about his business.
Living in China is not without its frustrations, and lord knows our three day trip to Hainan province dished up a few, but there are some very endearing oddities to this country I now call home – and the trip highlighted a few of those in between moments of teeth grinding frustration.
Crisis in Hainan
To say the transition from 1 or 2 degree days to 25 degrees at 9pm was pleasant is like saying a blowjob is ‘nice’. It just wouldn’t do it justice. And while I expressed my happiness with a smile as I shrugged off my jacket, Heather opted to instead let out a barbaric yawp to let the entire island know we’d arrived.
We spent a frustrating twenty minutes waiting by the baggage carousel before one of our fellow passengers – recognizing me after he’d spent our preflight watching me dominate all comers in FIFA 13 on my iPad – kindly pointed out to us that our baggage had been making a rather solitary course around a carousel at the opposite end of the terminal. Shaking our heads at our own stupidity, we flagged a cab and made for Dadonghai – the m0st popular beach region in Sanya City.
We pulled up out front of the Baohong Hotel and were immediately excited for the days to come. A fountain and piano player dominated the large, Grecian foyer where Christmas trees and decorations had been laid out in the holiday spirit. Brimming with confidence, I strolled up to the counter and handed over my passport.
“Please sir,” the woman at the counter asked, “Can you follow the man?” She gestured to a porter who I assumed was going to take our luggage up to our rooms.Not pointing any fingers, but somebody not named me had gone a little overboard in packing for our trip.
Our hearts soon sank as the porter not only didn’t offer to take any of our luggage – but also directed us out of the hotel and across the road to a considerably less grand looking facade. Inside the foyer of the Baohong Side Tower – a pair of fans lazily turned overhead and a Santa all in pink greeted us.
It turns out C-Trip, China’s equivalent to Expedia, had been just a little misleading in their description of the hotel. While we’d known we’d be in the Side Tower, we’d been lead to believe by the pictures they’d provided that it would be a good deal nicer than it was. Our ‘spacious balcony’ opened up to the view of the road overhead, giving passers by an excellent look in on the westerners should they deign to look down at us. The ‘tub’ we’d been promised was non existent, and our Queen sized bed had been somehow turned into a pair of king singles too heavy to move.
Operation: Fix This Shit
The tag team went into action as I first played calm and collected boyfriend and Heather tagged in as furious harridan who will not be put down. Ninety minutes later, we’d been promised an upgrade to the rooms pictured on the C-Trip website. This was cause for some celebration. Fatty that I am, I opted to celebrate with an order of Nasi Goreng and a banana split from room service. Heather opted for a shower instead.
It was in the process of paying for said treats that Heather inexplicably decided to fling open the bathroom door and emerge naked as the day she was born into the room. Her look of abject horror was matched only by the waiter’s frantic head shaking and mutterings of ‘No, no, no’.
I think the poor bastard thought I’d have to kill him for catching a glimpse of my naked girlfriend.
I did, however, decide not to tip him. He’d gotten enough for one night.
With all but our egos intact, Heather and I opted for a low key first night in Hainan. We soaked in the warm night air, thrilled at the chance to turn an air conditioner on, and went to bed excited for a day of sunning ourselves on the beach while our peers back in Nanjing froze their cajones off.
A Beach Christmas
While I’m not a stranger to warmth and sun when it comes to Christmas, I’ve never spent one sunning myself on the beach. I’ve dabbled in pool parties at Christmas (or Boxing Day) and I’ve certainly had a sizable quantity of ice cold beverages – but I’ve never sipped from a coconut to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
And I damn sure haven’t ever stopped for a moment with the Easter Bunny on a Chinese beach at noon on Christmas Day. I daresay none of you have either.
Christmas in Hainan was a decidedly un-Christmassy affair. After a lovely but painful Skype home to the family to see them unwrap their presents, Heather and I made a hasty retreat to Dadonghai Beach to forget all about the Christmases neither of us would be having this year.
Truth be told, this was my third Christmas away from home and I felt it more keenly than 2007 or 2010. It was hard not being there this time around. Maybe it’s the fact I have a niece and a nephew now. Maybe it’s that it’s been nine months since I’ve seen any of my family. Or maybe it’s just that as I approach thirty I more keenly feel the fact that life is fleeting and each Christmas I miss with my family brings me closer to a day when that family is a smaller one.
But more on such somber contemplation later.
With the hot sun beating down, the South China Sea delightfully warm, and the nearby bars serving up ice cold Coronas and delicious xiaokao (BBQ skewers) our Christmas was as relaxing as you could hope. We got our tan on, had a dip in the ocean, snapped entirely too many photos, collected a few seashells, and capped it all off with a delicious Christmas dinner at the Dolphin – Sanya’s only Western bar.
Not a Bad Option
I’ll talk more about Sanya as a tourist spot later, but it was a good fit for us when it came to avoiding being sad at Christmas and getting some much needed warmth. Dadonghai Beach has lost little of its charm since I last saw it in 2008, the Dolphin provided a good Christmas spread, and nature was kind enough to dish us up three warm and sunny (26C/80F) days to ensure we made the most of it.
I’ll talk about our day trip to Monkey Island (my second visit to the mislabeled peninsula) soon, as well as touching on our brushes with Chinese scammers and a general run down of why to visit and why not to visit China’s Hawaii in the next few days.
For now, let me leave you with this image and a Merry Christmas from Aussie on the Road. I hope you spent your day either with family & friends or out doing something awesome enough that you didn’t feel too bad about being away from home.