After the two days with the turtles and the two days in the school, it was time for the last third of our Project Week, to take place in Sanya City – specifically at the beach. Our group literally spent two days swimming in the blue sea, tanning and playing soccer on white sand, water-wrestling and – highlight of our time in Sanya – sneaking into the Hilton and Marriott hotels to enjoy their pools! Apart from these activities and shopping for incredibly cheep earrings and summer dresses as well as stuffing ourselves with dumplings, mangos and pineapple, there was not much else you could do in Sanya. It is a pure tourist city. Especially Russians seem to have declared it their favorite ‘summer vacation’ destination. They were everywhere; it felt like they had overtaken the city! Shop owners and street salesmen did not speak a word of English, but tried to communicate with us in fluent Russian. Restaurants had their menus in Chinese, English and Russian, and shops and bakeries gave themselves Chinese and Russian names. Even the music that we could hear blasting out of bars and clubs in the late evening, while I and two of my co-years strolled around the sea promenade, was Russian; and it was also the main language we heard at the first beach we were at. This first beach was next to the center of Sanya and hence crowed with people. There were old locals selling hammocks and ice-cream as well as traditional Chinese kites, children screaming and playing ball with their grand-dads and loads of people tanning and getting sunburnt.
The second beach we were at was further out of town. It took us a whole hour bus ride till we found ourselves in the area of all the expensive, luxurious hotels you could think off. While the bus driver didn’t really know where to drop us off (apparently he was a little lost), we passed the Sheraton, Hilton, MGM Grande, Marriott and Ritz Hotel, with their gigantic white buildings, uniformed door-standers, and palm tree lawns. When we got off the bus, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, as it seemed. No street signs showed us the way to the beach, no bus stop was even near in sight. However, we found the “staff and delivery entrance” to one of the hotels, which was only “closed” by a metal bar and at which’s road’s end we could catch a glimpse of the crystal blue water. Hence, in pairs, we slipped underneath the barrier and made our way, fast and steadily walking forwards without spending too much time looking left or right, heading towards the beach. The view that presented itself to us there was incredible. The water was azure blue, the beach nearly white as snow – clean and barely filled with people -, the sky was nearly empty and its endless blue was interrupted only by a few tiny, fluffy clouds. The waves gently spilled onto the beach, quietly splashing shells and sand onto the shore, palm trees surrounded the beach and hotel guests in same-colored towels rested under steady, wooden umbrellas. It was paradise as one would imagine it.
The water was pure joy. We ran into it, letting us drop into the beautiful warm waves and gazing at the manifested perfection in front of our eyes. We spent the first couple of hours at the beach lying and reading in the sun, constructing sand castles and turtles and playing soccer or water-games together. Later on, one of our group leaders proposed to try sneaking into one of the hotel pools, because they had done and succeeded in that the previous year and told us many hilarious stories about it. There was a big group, heading straight for the Hilton, and me and Oda, who got lost on the way and found ourselves in the Marriott Hotel first. You might thin, sneaking into these hotels was a big deal, but actually you could simply walk from the beach right into the hotel area – there were no barriers and no officers to hold you away. In the Marriott were greeted unsuspiciously and walked right passed the staff members at the pool, who smiled at us and wished us a nice time. Realizing we hadn’t landed in the Hilton, we decided to explore the Marriott for a while (I mean, how often do you get that opportunity?) and made our way through the complex pool and relaxing area, with twisted paths, pool tunnels and hidden spa areas. The pool sector was absolutely amazing and represented very well the amount of thought that the architect must have put into it – as well as the money that the hotel probably spent on it.
The Hilton didn’t look very different, however the Hilton was a lot larger, the residential buildings for hotel guests looked more exotic and luxurious, the pools were cleaner and more varied – and, most of all, the Hilton staff was more suspicious at us. When Oda and I came near to the Hilton, walking there on the beach, we could already hear people screaming and see water splashing – guessing immediately (and being right about it) that these must be the LPC people… We joined them in the main pool after being greeted by the hotel staff – and greeting back – in Russian, and tried to convince the rest of our group that it would probably be better to behave themselves in a hotel like this: “This hotel is full of old rich people, do you really think you will be able to get through with this behavior unnoticed? You guys are literally the only ones here who act like this.” When we realized that our warnings were ignored by deaf ears, Oda and I decided to separate from the group again and explored the Hilton on our own. We found whirl pools and water slides, an ice-cream stand that sold only Häagen-Dazs and many more entwined and hidden pools and tunnels. The Hilton even had installed “fake beaches” in their hotel area, even though the real sea was only 200 meters away! When Oda and I came back to the real beach for a lunch break, we were told by the other, noisy group, that they had been taken aside by the hotel staff and were asked for their room numbers. However, they managed to slide past the inquiries by pretending they all only spoke Spanish and didn’t understand the hotel staff. Afterwards, they still left the hotel – just in case of more trouble. Later, when Oda and I took Dorte, our co-year from Ecuador to the Hilton pools, we faced the same problem. While swimming in the pool area close to the apartments, a staff member came to the pool side and asked us in flawless English for our room number. Oda immediately put on a huge smile and explained that we had just arrived and not yet remembered our room number, but had the key with our clothes at the pool side. We pointed to a random part of the apartment complex at the other side of the pool area: “We live over there, on the third floor.” The staff member thanked us and wished us a pleasant day. The three of us swam on for a bit longer but soon became aware of the fact that we were thoroughly watched by the staff members, who were obviously also all in telephone contact with each other … not to end up being inquired at the main reception or being asked for our room key which was supposedly with our clothes, we quickly left the hotel area, pretending to be ever so graceful and realistic (in terms of a hotel guest) as possible on our way out – yet clearly accelerating our steps the closer we got to the beach.