Saturday – Bike Ride to Yalong Bay
Since we had walked a lot yesterday, we decided to put off Wuzhishan for one more day. Nate decided to hang out at the hostel, and I wanted to bike to Yalong Bay, a premier beach in Sanya. So I rented a bright red, 24-speed Specialized bike for the day. It was 50 RMB to rent, but the shop wanted a 1,200 RMB down payment in case I lost the bike. I intended to circle around a mountainous peninsula, go up the coast, and then back down to the bay.
Unfortunately, the peninsula road was a dead-end. It was a pleasant ride that skirted the edge of the ocean and ended at a resort with its own golf course. But going back into a headwind was not so pleasant. After a quick lunch, I resumed the coastal ride. Suddenly, my leg muscles began cramping, and I nearly gave up when I saw a sign for Yalong. After straining up one more hill, I sped along a tree-covered road to Yalong Bay. After passing endless villas and resorts, I reached the beach.
Here was paradise. The cerulean sea waves crashed onto pristine, white sands where beachgoers lounged under tiki huts. Most women wore sun hats and colorful, flowery dresses that rivaled a butterfly’s wings. After a short plunge into the ocean, I laid on my towel, basking in the sun and listening to the rustling of the palm trees. Time to nap.
Sunday – Wuzhishan
Today I was ready to conquer another mountain. We were going to climb Wuzhishan, the tallest mountain in Hainan, almost 6,000′ high. At least that was the plan. So we went to the bus station, got a ticket, and took the two-hour ride to Wuzhishan.
We went through several mountainous passes along the way. Aside from the occasional fruit stand and a few adventurous bikers, there wasn’t much activity. After arriving in the city, we were accosted by several drivers who wanted to take us to the mountain. Fortunately, some students directed us to a bus that cost much less and took about the same time.
Oddly enough, Wuzhishan the city isn’t even close to the Wuzhishan the mountain. It’s another hour from the city. A bit misleading, if you ask me. We climbed into a bus, which was more like a minivan with blue-tinted windows, and headed to Shuiman. The village had seen better days. The main street passed along several drab, concrete buildings that contained shops and a food market. Chickens ran along the dirt road and rooted through piles of trash.
Several pedicab drivers (a motorized tricycle with seats in the back) lounged near the bus stop, waiting to give someone a ride. I asked a driver if he could take us to the mountain. He told us we could see the mountain, but we couldn’t climb it. That was probably the oddest, most absurd comment I ever heard. I had climbed several mountains before and never been prevented from climbing one. Apparently, we needed a tour guide for this one.
I would have been more upset if it was a perfectly clear day. But today clouds had enveloped the mountain, and I could barely see the base. It was chilly too. The sun was hiding somewhere behind a gray mass of clouds. Since we were denied the mountain, we opted for a tour near the mountain.
A pedicab driver took us to the tour car where we were joined by a chatty group of elderly tourists. The driver dropped us off near a trail, and we walked onto the wooden boardwalk. The trail was a pleasant one that followed a river through a forest and past a local farm with rice paddies and fruit trees. I was tempted to climb a tree and grab some papayas, but I think the farmer would have forced me into indentured servitude. I didn’t like papayas that much.
After we reached the end of the trail, we walked into a village. One woman told us to go back on the trail to get back to Shuiman, and another said to walk down the village road to reach it. Somewhat confused, we walked to the road and realized we were only a few minutes from our final destination. After another pedicab ride we were back in Shuiman, and shortly after, we crammed into a bus with mainly school children and elderly folks. No seats for us, but we did have a great view of the precipitous gorge along the edge of the road as the driver flew around the bends. Life gives you thrills when you least expect them (or desire them, for that matter).
Monday – Yalong Bay
We decided to revisit Yalong Bay on our last day. The food was expensive, but I splurged with some salmon pasta and a banana smoothie. Later we bought some red coconuts and sipped coconut juice. I almost felt like a Hainan native.
After lunch, we strolled along the main road, inspecting some of the resorts. Most had open-air lobbies and outdoor pools. The Holiday Inn Resort charged 1,200 RMB each day. I think I’ll stick with our hostel. Once we reached the ocean, we stopped by a shack that posted a slew of marine activities: jet-skiing, parasailing, surfing, underwater photography, and deep-sea diving. Being the thrifty travelers we were, we chose the free activity – volleyball.
At first, Nate and I played against two other Chinese guys. But soon some girls joined and two lifeguards who looked like they had graduated from the Naval Academy. The skill level wasn’t great, but I enjoyed diving for the ball and feeling the fresh sea breeze. It was a good finale to our trip.
Sanya might not have been the ultimate paradise, but it was getting there. I could stroll along palm-lined beaches, breathe fresh air, and eat outside late at night. At times, I felt like the city was agitated with its overcrowded streets, new construction, and beeping motorbikes. But there was also a relaxed vibe as people wandered the streets late at night or danced along the beachfront. Maybe someday Hainan will be the next Hawaii.