The Thomas Family
Travelers: George and Smita Chandra Thomas and their daughter Saachi Eva (age 3), who attends The British School of Beijing’s Sanlitun campus.
Destination: Sanya, Hainan
Dates: June 8-11, 2013
Cost: About RMB 28,000. The hotel came to RMB 14,000 and included a three-night package (RMB 6,000) at the Mandarin Oriental, which came with complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport, daily breakfast for two, an RMB 500 credit to resort restaurants or spa, and late checkout. That also included charges for room service, poolside food and drinks, laundry, and more. Plane tickets for three cost RMB 14,000, with flights from Beijing to Hong Kong for RMB 9,000 and flights from Hong Kong to Sanya for RMB 5,000.
Tour company: The Thomas family booked their flights through Ms. Jin at David Tour (firstname.lastname@example.org, 131 4131 1165). They researched hotels on Trip Advisor and decided on the Mandarin Oriental Sanya (www.mandarinoriental.com/sanya).
Billed as “China’s Hawaii,” Sanya has grown into a tourist destination only in the last decade or so. The island is kept pristine by design – it boasts clean air, blue skies, white sand, and crystal clear water on its shores.
We decided to make a long weekend out of the mid-June Dragon Boat Festival, to “Escape to Sanya,” as our hotel package was called. We were picked up at the airport by a complimentary personal hotel shuttle with a thoughtful driver who promptly handed us chilled towels and water bottles on that hot summer day.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel lies at the end of a narrow coastal road on a triangular tip of land jutting prominently into the sea. The resort occupies one side of a crescent-shaped, lush green hill and is dotted with sloping grey-tiled roofs peeping through treetops. The buildings are set back against a hill that slopes down to a pristine shoreline. Entering the stone-clad gate columns, you feel transported to another world – a verdant, beautifully laid out, and well-maintained world. Golf cart-style buggies run along the narrow winding pathways between the buildings and villas, carting around guests as well as room service and housekeeping staff. Artful lighting design gave the resort a romantic glow in the evenings.
The true highlight of our vacation was the impeccable service; we started to mistake ourselves for royalty by the end. But the highlight of the resort itself is the myriad of pools in the middle of the complex. Decorative pools around the central building pavilions led to tropical outdoor showers, which in turn led to a series of interconnected outdoor swimming pools. For sea swimmers, there are designated swimming areas and beach sections as well.
Our family’s favorite was a shallow heated pool with a sand bed. Shaded by large trees (including an old banyan tree), this pool was designed as an extension to an artificial beach lounging area. Werelaxed under beach umbrellas and enjoyed drinks and snacks served while our daughter played in the shallow water right in front of us.
This pool is connected to other deeper pools: a hangout pool with a built-in wet bar, an active pool with a water slide and basketball hoops, and a long pool for leisurely laps. Cross over to a raised infinity pool fitted with Jacuzzi jets and you can see that there are still more tranquil infinity pools at the lower level. They’re outfitted with built-in stone beds with massaging water jets where you can lie and listen to the waves lapping on the shore.
The sandy pool was perfect for toddlers, and there was also a stockpile of beach toys available. For kids, there was picture-taking by the pool every morning and free ice cream at the pool bar every afternoon. The resort also has an indoor, air-conditioned kids’ club with various activities. Babysitting service was available, but it was quite expensive at RMB 120 an hour.
The hotel has a lovely spa, and other activities offered on the daily calendar included free Shaolin Kung Fu demonstrations, tai chi and yoga classes, cooking classes, Saturday movies on the lawn, and for an extra charge, paragliding with a boat, jet skiing, and night-time deep sea fishing. Overall, there was enough to do that you may not discover it all in one stay, and you never had to leave the resort complex.
Sanya has a balmy, tropical climate. Mid-June isn’t the worst of summer, but it was still hot! July and August are the hottest and most humid months. September to October is typhoon season. The coolest, driest months are from November to April, though Chinese public holidays draw large crowds. May and June are warmer, but have fewer people, decent weather, and lower hotel rates.
Sanya has lots of mosquitoes. Be sure to bring DEET-free mosquito repellant. Some resorts provide insect repellant spray, but it may not be safe for kids.
If you’re staying at a resort, bring snacks, as resorts only have expensive restaurants.
Bring an extra swimsuit. Don’t count on being able to buy swimwear unless you want to spend USB 150-300 on swim trunks at the resort. If you’re in a pinch, there is an outlet mall in Sanya.
Photo courtesy of Smita Chandra Thomas
This article originally appeared on p38-39 of the beijingkids August 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com