Peaceful world

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 12:00am


Long before luxury resorts and big-name events brought fame to Sanya, the area was known as the end of the known world, where monks focused on inner peace, officials lamented their exile from court intrigues, and merchants and pirates fought over the island's exquisite pearls.

Just west of Sanya Bay, three vestiges of this historical legacy still remain. The first is Tianya Haijiao, or the end of the known world. The site was immortalised by Tang dynasty poet Wang Bo, who was the first poet to use the phrase the 'end of heaven, edge of the sea', the literal translation of the Chinese name.

Today, the little strip of beach is an enclosed park, popular with lovers. The park is dotted with imposing steles and stones - many covered with love poems - that stand like sentinels guarding the fortress of love. A line of couples walk slowly towards a collection of smooth stones at the edge of the beach, where they take pictures and swear their love would last forever.

Further down the coast is Daxiaodongtian, another tourist park that surrounds two tiny caves in the cliff that were used by monks for ages before the modern world encroached on their deep thoughts. Daxiaodongtian is also a popular destination for tourists to Sanya because of the Buddhist and Taoist overtones, but also for the boat rides that lead out from this beach to the open sea and back down the coast towards Tianya Haijiao.

Nearby, Nanshan is perhaps the most famous of Sanya's tourist attractions, behind Tianya Haijiao. Nanshan is a vast mountain complex on the southwestern tip of the island, boasting one of the largest Buddha statues in the world - the 108-metre Guanyin or goddess of mercy. The climb to the top takes several hours and you should leave some time for exploration as well - leave in the morning and expect an evening return.

Another of Sanya's romantic sights is the Luhuitou peninsula. The largest hill is called Luhuitou, which translates as 'the deer looks back', and refers to an old legend of a hunter who chased a deer all the way across the island to this dead end.

Just before the hunter loosed his arrow, the deer looked back at him and the indescribable beauty of the moment made the hunter drop his bow. In reward for his mercy, the deer transformed into a beautiful young maiden and the couple lived happily ever after.

For more long walks through Sanya's lush flora, you might want to try one of the ethnic culture villages scattered along the coast.

The Baiyue and Binlang villages are the most famous, but the Haitang Bay tourism zone is planning to have more. Binlang is located in the Ganshiling Nature Reserve near Tiandu town - and that should be enough to attract most tourists.

The park around the village is large and might require a full day to explore all the dead ends and twists, so if you have young children with energy, this might be a good choice.

The park is actually just the background for several performances woven together to display some of the things that make the Li minority special.

Older women display the cuisine, some of the clothes-making techniques and their fascinating traditional tattoos, while younger women dance and sing, demonstrating the marriage ceremony and other songs to important traditional events.

Every such village is organised very efficiently to give tourists a beautiful place to walk through, a close and friendly look at the indigenous culture, and the opportunity to buy all kinds of souvenirs and trinkets.

There are clusters of small traditional Li minority homes throughout the parks, with each cluster specialising in a certain folk custom.