Escape to Sanya

With my birthday in the middle of October, Jun and I decided to forgo traveling during China’s October Holiday week and instead do something for my birthday. We decided to take the weekend and a few days off work in mid-October to visit Sanya in Hainan.

Our adventure started Friday evening after work as we both made our way to the airport. After going through security and having dinner at the airport, we soon found ourselves on the plane and on our way to Sanya.

When we got there we took a taxi to the hotel—the St. Regis Yalong Bay. Our taxi driver wasn’t the best of drivers, though, and had a difficult time getting to the hotel. Apparently, a typhoon that passed through the area had closed down one of the roads, or so the driver said. A few days later we learned the road had been closed for weeks due to planned reconstruction. Who knows? What was important was that we got to the hotel eventually.

After check-in, we soon found ourselves in our room. It was a lovely place with flowers everywhere welcoming us. By then it was late, Jun and I were tired and ready for bed. After cleaning up, we ended up sleeping soundly through the night.

Day 1

We didn’t plan to do much in Sanya beyond just relaxing. That’s probably a good thing since the first few days were rainy. The first morning there it was raining lightly. We decided to see how things went in the morning after breakfast before we made any plans.

As we were finishing breakfast the rain stopped. We decided to walk around the resort. As we passed the beach and were enjoying the views, it started to sprinkle. We decided it was light enough that we would continue our walk. Yet, the rain persisted and eventually became too heavy to enjoy walking. We went back to the room to dry off and think of what we could do next.

By late morning we decided we would go to the duty-free shopping zone and explore that area. As our Didi driver took us to the Haitang Bay area of Sanya the rain again stopped. When we arrived at the Sanya International Tax Exemption City, we walked around the shopping center and browsed at some stores. Nothing of interest caught our eyes and the crowds were a bit overwhelming.

We decided to have a late lunch at a local seafood restaurant. The place was wonderful and the food delicious. We enjoyed ourselves and were ready to do something fun.

We noticed on the drive to the restaurant that the Atlantis Hotel was nearby. I heard from colleagues that the Lost Chambers Aquarium was worth a visit and we decided that it would be a good place to spend the afternoon. The Atlantis was completely different from our hotel. Whereas our hotel was more relaxed and quiet, the Atlantis was a hub of activity.

The aquarium was quite nice and had a variety of species in nicely designed habitats. It was amazing to see so many fish in one place. Also, it seemed a wise way to spend it since it rained while we were there.

By then it was late, we decided to go back to our hotel. When we got back we realized we weren’t that hungry and just ordered a light meal from a restaurant in the area for delivery. We watched a bit of TV and relaxed as it rained outside. Soon we were ready for bed. 

Day 2

As we woke up we could hear the rain outside. Today would be another rainy day. As a result, we decided to just stay at the hotel and relax. Since we had already decided on a day at the hotel, we went to breakfast late. Because of that we skipped lunch and just enjoyed the amenities at the resort. I had some schoolwork I needed to do, so I concentrated on that for a bit. The rest of the day was just relaxing.

Mid-afternoon, we decided to go have afternoon tea. We enjoyed immensely the time relaxing and enjoying the different treats. Afterward, the rain stopped and we walked around the resort in the light rain.

Since afternoon tea had been more food than we anticipated, we decided again to order in for the night. We watched a bit of TV and ended the day relaxing in our room.

Day 3

We woke up again to the sight of rain, but it seemed as if it would lighten up later.  After breakfast, it was clear enough for us to walk around the resort. We thought it would last. As a result, we decided to take advantage of the lull in the rain and visit the Tropical Paradise Forest Park. When we got there, though, it started to rain. Since we were already there, we decided to see if we could enjoy the park. Because it was raining , we were advised to take the bus to the top. When we got there, we could only see the rain and clouds. Neither of us could see very far. We also discovered that the park is quite commercialized and had an amusement park vibe to it. Since it wasn’t very enjoyable in the heavy rain, we decided to just go back to the hotel.

When we got there we took showers to clean and warm up. We then went and had lunch at one of the hotel’s restaurants since it came with our package. Lunch was nice, but because we had a package deal the meal was also a set menu and came with some items from the kids’ menu. After we finished lunch, we went back to the room to relax.

Later in the evening, the rain had stopped. We decided to go to a little shopping area in the beach area for dinner. We found another nice seafood restaurant and enjoyed our meal by the sea. When we had finished, we decided to walk a bit around the area before going back to the hotel and call it a day.

Day 4

My birthday! And the rain was nowhere in sight. The clouds were starting to part and you could see a bit of blue sky. Since we had the opportunity to enjoy a nice day, we chose to venture to Wuzhizhou Island. We first had to travel back to Hailong Bay and take a ferry to the island. When we got there, it was full of people enjoying the weather. We walked around the island and explored what we could see. There were some nice views, but it was very much a tourist spot.

After we had exhausted everything we wanted to see, we then went to find lunch. We decided since we were in the area we would go back to the restaurant we had two days earlier. The food was that good! Again, we enjoyed our lunch and had a wonderful meal.

From there we went back to Yalong Bay and first stopped at the little shopping area to get some drinks. Afterward, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed the resort area.

Later that night we celebrated my birthday with a cake the hotel provided. It was a nice way to end the day.

Day 5

Our last day in Sanya. The morning had us enjoying our room and the hotel. We walked a bit around the hotel one last time after breakfast. Then we packed our things and just relaxed for the rest of the morning. We had our last complimentary lunch and soon had to leave for the airport.

When we got to the airport, Jun picked up some duty-free items he ordered. We had some snacks and then boarded our flight back to Shenzhen.

It ended up bring a low-key and relaxing vacation. It was nice to have a break from everything and not have to worry about work or household chores for a few days. Being able to enjoy the hotel was a nice birthday treat.

A Bangkok Birthday

To celebrate Jun’s birthday, we ventured to Bangkok for a long weekend. We started our trip by heading to the airport for our flight in the evening. Everything at the airport went smoothly and we were soon on our way to Bangkok.

Immigration went quickly and our taxi quickly got us to the hotel—Lebua at State Tower. Soon Jun and I were up in our wonderful room. We showered and soon were in bed for a restful sleep.

Day 1

After having a restful sleep, Jun and I ventured from the hotel to take a water taxi to visit the Grand Palace. The late morning on the Chao Phraya was beautiful. There was an eclectic mix of historic and modern buildings, with temples interspersed between these buildings. With the wind blowing it was a great way to start our exploration of the city.

When we alighted at Tha Chang Pier we soon found our way meandering through the queue to the entrance of the palace.

Once inside Jun and I were amazed at the beauty of Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. The temple on the grounds was magnificent. While everything inside it was of an impressive scale, what caught my interest was the minute attention given to the smallest of details. Because the smallest components build up to a larger whole, it created a unified design at different levels. It was quite impressive.

From the temple area we went and walked around the rest of the palace. By then it was a bit after noon and the sun was becoming intense. We took refuge in one of the museums of the grounds. Afterwards, we decided to go find a place for lunch.

We walked south of the Grand Palace to find a restaurant called The Sixth that had good reviews. When we got there, however, it was full and there would be a wait. Next to it, though, was a new restaurant—All Meals Sawasdee—that looked interesting. We took a look at the menu and decided we would try it. The food was amazing. We particularly enjoyed the simple, delicious dish of morning glories. The preparation of these vegetables left such an impression that for almost every meal we had in Bangkok we ended up ordering morning glories.

After lunch we took the ferry from Tha Tien across the river to Wat Arun. When we got to the other side of the river we walked around the area and saw that the local school was having a service at one of the temples. We saw the children with lotus flowers in their hands as they listened to the monks. The children were sweet during the entire ceremony. Jun and I worked to be inconspicuous as we went around the temple.

The area around Wat Arun had a certain romantic feel to it. The decorations on the temples were in pastel colors and used a flower-based motif. We saw a clear distinction between Wat Arun and other temples we had seen in the region.

One of the neat things about Wat Arun was the symmetry of the structure. It created a lot of opportunities to take interesting pictures.

After having visited Wat Arun, we took the ferry back across the river to Rattanakosin. It was now mid-afternoon, Jun and I decided to escape the heat and go to one of the shopping centers in Bangkok to get out of the sun and do some shopping.

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We had an argument about how to get there, but eventually we settled on the means on how to get there. When we arrived, the air conditioning was much welcomed. The main thing we wanted to get was the Swatch Destination Watch for Bangkok. After finding the store, we were soon in possession of a new watch to add to our collection.

We walked around for a bit, but then decided to go back to the hotel to rest.

Once we had rested it was near time for dinner and we ended up at a really nice neighborhood restaurant called ZabBangLove. The place was cozy and had wonderful food. The staff were really friendly. We ended up having another great meal.

We went back to the hotel after dinner. I got ready for bed while Jun got ready to go to the airport to pick up his cousin, who was joining us on the trip to celebrate his birthday.

Day 2

Jun arrived back before 3:00 in the morning and soon went to bed. He slept in a bit while I did some photo editing in the living room until he decided to wake up.

When he did, we waited for his cousin to get up before we went out around 11:00 for a walk and to find a place to eat. As we were walking we decided to go to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Jun ordered a Grab car and we were soon on our way to the market.

The first thing we did there was to find a place to eat. We had a decent meal, but it wasn’t anything special. The snacks and drinks we bought at the market, however, were quite nice.

The market is huge! It covers roughly 35-acres and has over 8,000 vendors roughly broken into different sections. It was easy to get lost in the different things you could buy there. I particularly enjoyed the art section. We ended up buying a small watercolor from this really nice artist: Supachai Charoenjiti.

After having spent a few hours there we decided to walk around the park a bit and make plans for what we wanted to do. Jun’s cousin preferred to do some shopping, so we went back to Siam using the Skytrain. When we arrived there we went around for a bit, but noticed prices were comparable to China and there wasn’t much worth in buying anything that you could get back in China.

At that point we decided to go try afternoon tea. After some research we decided to go to Cher Cheeva at Iconsiam. We took the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin. From there we originally had planned on walking to Iconsiam, but as we exited the station we saw that there was a free ferry to take people from the station across the river to Iconsiam. We waited for a bit and soon were on our way across the river.

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When we got there we spent some time trying to find the place and found one venue of the establishment. The sweets and tea were amazing. It was a nice way to pass the late afternoon.

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After enjoying our afternoon we soon started to make plans for Jun’s birthday dinner. He decided we should go to ASIATIQUE The Riverfront. We soon took the ferry back and walked down to ASIATIQUE. When we got there we did a walk around to see which restaurant Jun wanted to dine in. He chose a lovely Thai restaurant by the river called Baan Khanitha. The food was delicious and the service wonderful. It was, indeed, a nice meal for Jun’s birthday.

Afterwards, when we got back to the hotel, Jun received a surprise! The staff at the hotel had provided a complimentary cake to celebrate his birthday. I had a few months prior enquired about purchasing a birthday cake for Jun, the staff at the hotel informed me that would be unnecessary because they were happy to provide a complimentary cake. We appreciated such a wonderful gesture.

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Soon we lit the candles, sang “Happy Birthday,” and Jun made his birthday wish and blew out the candles. The cake itself was delicious. It was a great way to end the day.

Day 3

Throughout the previous day, Jun had been in contact with Jamming Thailand about setting up a tour to visit Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park in Ayutthaya; we needed it to be flexible to allow Jun’s cousin to get to the airport by 4:30 in the afternoon. The tour agent who contacted Jun was great and helped us set up a private van for the day. It would take us to the sites we wanted to visit, as well as go to the airport and back to our hotel.

Our day started with us meeting at the elevator. As Jun’s cousin explained on the elevator ride down, the hotel had accidently sent her a box of chocolates to her room. When she tried to clarify the mistake with the hotel, the hotel staff said that she could keep it since it was their mistake.

She was showing us the box as we went to see if our driver had arrived. He had and we soon were introducing ourselves and got in the van for a day of exploration. To start our trip, Jun’s cousin gave everyone a chocolate to start our journey. Our driver was a little surprised at the chocolate but smiled as he took his piece.

The journey north of Bangkok went smoothly. We were soon at our first stop: Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. Thai kings had formerly used the complex as their summer palace, but as of now been repurposed as a cultural site and museum. The grounds of the palace are beautiful and the structures eclectic. Most of the buildings are based on the architectural style of 19th century Europe. There are a few other buildings in an Asian style, but most of the buildings have a very distinct European look. The most striking of these buildings is the Ho Withun Thasana (Sages’ Lookout). The tower reminded me of Rapunzel; the colors and shape of the tower created for a fairy tale look.

Our walk around the palace was nice, but we soon were ready to go to our next stop.

From Bang Pa-In we drove north to Ayutthaya. Our first stop was at Wat Thammikarat. It’s a working wat with a large chedi on the grounds. It was quite impressive and a nice start on our visit to the different sites at the historical park.

After visiting Wat Thammikarat, we went to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The temple had been built on the grounds of the royal palace complex; the temple is where the majority of the intact ruins remain of the entire palace complex. The wat is known for a row of restored chedis near the center of the grounds. It was really neat to see the different structures.

Across the street was Wat Phra Ram. This site consisted of an enormous prang surrounded by chedis. King Ramesuan ordered the construction of this temple on the site where his father—King U-Thong—had his royal cremation ceremony.

From there we then went to our last temple in Ayutthaya: Wat Phra Mahatat. The temple grounds are fairly large. A number of the prangs are leaning and look like they could collapse to the ground at any second. The temple also have a number of headless Buddha statutes, as well as a Buddha head with a tree growing around it.

From there we went and had lunch at Krua Vietnam before heading back to Bangkok to drop Jun’s cousin at the airport and for us to go back to the hotel. By the time we had arrived at the hotel it was around 5:00. Jun and I went to rest for a bit before going to Chinatown for dinner.

When we got to Chinatown we chose a seafood restaurant that was fairly good and tried a number of dishes. Afterwards, we saw a long line of people waiting at a snack trolley on the street. Apparently they were selling youtiaos with a pandan-coconut sauce. We decided we would wait and try it. The youtiaos were okay, but the sauce was amazing. It was a nice treat to end a busy day.

Day 4

Our last day in Bangkok was a bit of a lazy day. After waking up late, Jun and I decided to have an early lunch at Ruen Urai. Since we went early, and it’s a bit out of the way, on a weekday, we had the entire restaurant to ourselves. The food was amazing! It was a nice last meal to have in Bangkok.

As we were walking back to the hotel to get our things, we stopped at a Jim Thompson store and did a bit of shopping. Then we went back to the hotel.

The rest of the day was spent traveling back to Shenzhen. The normal routine of international travel went without any problems and Jun and I were soon back at our apartment in Shenzhen ready to start work the next day.

Jun said that he had a great birthday. I’m really glad because he deserves to celebrate another wonderful year. Here’s hoping for many great years ahead!

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