China's tropical side

SANYA, China - At the top of a hilly path within the sacred grounds of Nanshan, a Buddhist temple on China's Hainan Island, a limitless panorama stretches out like a brilliant ice-blue canvas gingerly painted with waves and sky, white crests gently lapping the sandy shoreline below.

This South China Sea island is all the rage for travelers and tourists these days. The boom reverberates differently in the ears of sightseers, real estate developers, entrepreneurs and artists.

Straddling the southern tip of the island, with 200km of coast and five picturesque bays nearby, the beautiful city of Sanya has become the hub for the Hainan travel rage. Here, one can find the cleanest air, the finest white sandy beaches and the clearest seawater in all of China. A sweeping, mountainous topography divides the cityscape, punctuated by smaller green hills.

At the centre lies crescent-shaped Dadong Bay, the most popular rendezvous for travelers. A long boardwalk shaded by coconut trees runs along the beach. Lively men stride past, decked out in straw hats with short-sleeve shirts and trousers plastered with beach and palm tree patterns. Women wear sheer summer dresses. While 90 per cent of visitors are mainland Chinese, widespread Russian language signage underscores the island's appeal to visitors from further north.

Music blares and small shops offer pearls, seashells and trinkets. Some passersby pause for "fish therapy," soaking their feet in tanks in which hundreds of tiny Garra rufa, or doctor fish, peck away at old skin. This experience is said to make the surfaces of feet and legs soft and supple.

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