Most people don’t know about China’s Hawaii nor did I for a long time. When I learned about Hainan and its white sandy beaches I thought this was a perfect spot for a two-week vacation during Christmas time. Away from the cold weather in the Netherlands. I found a great deal for a low priced airline ticket to China in business class departing from Madrid (read my tips on booking cheap business class tickets). I did not hesitate to book. I went together with my kids and spouse to Hainan during Christmas 2015. One of the days we visited West Island and the Sanya No. 1 Agricultural Products Market. Join me to West Island!
West Island (in Chinese: Ximao Zhou) is not cheap. The activities are expensive, for sure for Chinese standards. The island can be reached by a 10 minute boat ride from Xiaoqi Port located about 30 minutes from downtown Sanya. If you go 30 minutes to the other side of Sanya you can reach also Wuzhizhou or Wuzhi Island. Both islands offer similar activities but West Island was located near our Holiday Inn Resort Sanya Bay hotel so we went there. At the docks you can already pre-pay for activities on the island. I’m actually not sure if it was cheaper but I would recommend paying for activities on the island itself. Once on the island you will know better what you want. Just keep in mind to take a budget, the fee to get to the island is just 130 RMB but the activities are pretty expensive.
Once you arrive to West Island you are welcomed by a huge shell statue. There you can walk to the right where you find most of the diving activities. To the left you find the shops, restaurants and the beach activities. We went to the left as those activities were for which we came. The island is made for the tourists with nice palm trees giving you shade and lots of souvenir shops. In the past the island was a home for fishermen.
We walked the paths to the main beach. The change-rooms are free of charge and after we changed clothes we decided we would hire some sunbeds. They are expensive! It was not so busy on the beach so I was able to negotiate the price down and we just took two of them for the four of us.
The beach has just a small area for swimming so if you are into swimming in the ocean without all the activities then West Island is not your place. The kids wanted to go on the banana boat, jet-ski and go paragliding. With prices sky-high they were only allowed to go on the banana boat and jet-ski which both were around 150-200 RMB (about 20-28 euro at that time). Pretty expensive! Paragliding was double that price for just 5 minutes. It wasn’t the price but because of the short time that we said to the kids they can’t do it. One thing for sure: they had lots of fun on the jet-ski and banana boat.
Time goes by very quickly when you are at the beach and we got hungry. We ordered food at one of the restaurants just a few meters up the beach. Once we finished we planned to walk around the island to the other side to see if maybe we could do one of the diving activities but the sky turned dark. Really dark. Maybe it was because my daughter played the piano? Even the kids found it a good idea to return back to the hotel before the whole crowd decided the same due to the dark clouds. There were no waiting lines yet to return. Finally we returned back to our hotel around 4PM when it started to clear up. The kids went to the pool and I finished some work I had left. Yes, even during Christmas holidays I do need to work a bit.
It was 7PM when we wanted to go for dinner at the fish market but the girls were too tired. Finally at 7:30PM I went alone with my son. This was probably a good choice because it was dirty. It took about 30 minutes by taxi to the Sanya No. 1 Agricultural Products Market. It’s mainly fish and some vegetables there.
Sanya No. 1 Agricultural Products Market
With the girls back at the hotel ordering room service I could go crazy with my son at the fish market. We both love to eat strange stuff and we had a few things on our wish list. Two items sea star and seahorse we could not find. The Sanya No. 1 Agricultural Products Market is an indoor market the size of a good sports hall. On the streets before and around it are located a huge variety of small shops and stalls selling all kinds of items. The idea is that at the market you will buy fresh sea food and some vegetables and a nearby restaurant will prepare it for you. Don’t worry; there are many touts out there to lure you to their restaurant. When we entered the market we saw a small friend walking over the pipes (see small inline photo). Don’t worry they don’t bite. You can even eat them, but this we had already done in a previous trip. Inside the hall it’s very crowded and you really have to push a bit with your elbows to get through the crowd and choose your items.
We got followed by a woman of one of the restaurants and finally accepted her help in choosing the various shells, fishes and other sea food. She had a small paper with prices for preparing the dishes. They seemed reasonable to me. It’s very simple to spend a fortune here! There are many items that are not cheap so keep an eye on your budget. My final bill was about double what I had thought it would cost, but I did choose the more expensive items.
We choose about 6 or 7 different items which I thought were too much. We were hungry so better to much than not enough. The women took us through the back exit followed by a small alley to her restaurant. There we were asked how they should prepare the dishes and we told them in best Chinese that spicy is fine. We had no clue how they would prepare it. Each dish came out very tasty!
It’s a lot of fun to go to restaurants like these in back alleys of major towns in China. It may seem to many a bit dirty but actually the food is very fresh and prepared on very hot fires. I, nor my family, ever experienced any sickness afterwards. When we finished our dishes, we did finish them, we had a small talk with the people serving us. It’s always a bit guessing who does what in such restaurants. They did know all the soccer players from the Netherlands. After dinner we looked around the various street vendors selling all kinds of (fake) items. We didn’t really need anything but it’s always interesting to see what’s happening. After hanging out on the streets for an hour or so the sellers started to close for the night.
The day got us tired and when we returned back to our hotel at 11PM we called it a night. The next day a new Hainan adventure would be waiting for us. We also visited Guangzhou and Foshan for a few days during this trip too. I will share with you in other posts those adventures. For now browse through my other China adventures. I already have been to China a dozen orso times so lot of things to share with you.
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Did you visit West Island too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!