Sanya, on 13,650 sq mile Hainan Island, is China’s answer to Hawaii. And foreigners should take note – for a start, 59 nations do not need a typical China visa: get one on arrival. And the weather is extremely pleasant, year round. Girlahead stayed at two of the many really top resorts in the Sanya area.
First, Capella Sanya, in Blessed Bay. Pickup from Sanya’s Phoenix airport, 35 minutes away, was by silver Rolls-Royce, with WiFi and divine sago-infused coconut water. And there, at the resort, was GM Yngvar Stray, who opened the 190-room beauty this January. Originally intended to be One&Only it was designed, like One&Only Reethi Rah and so many other world-class resorts, by Jean-Michel Gathy. Bill Bensley’s superb landscaping has several bird sculptures (think his pool terrace at St Regis Bangkok). Sensibly, one cluster of villas can be sold together to give 11 bedrooms, ideal for families. I was in two-bedroom Villa Jasmine, #8105, which has dining for eight, a full kitchen, an 18×6 metre outside pool, several terraces and, down five steps, grass leading to the beach 20 metres beyond.
I had some gorgeous Assouline books, brought here via Korea: somewhat incongruously, my selection included Stanley Stewart’s tome on Ashford Castle. The Capella Sanya is a hotel for continual experiences, which include some spectacular sunsets. Every evening at 6.30 hotel guests are invited to the Living Room, a splendid residential library. Drinks are served, and at 6.50 a story-teller starts a ten-minute ritual, recounting the tale of The Silk Road, supposedly named by German Ferdinand von Richthofen who explored this area in 1877. Every night, in turn, one of seven stages is celebrated, west to east, Venice, Alexandria, Bombay, Bangkok, Singapore, Sanya and Shanghai. A suitable libation, Sanya Summer, is offered. We then went off to dine, outside on Dempsey’s terrace, a reminder that Capella, the company, is headquartered in Singapore.
In the morning, after a good workout in the Athletic Centre, I breakfasted in Silk Road, experiencing the ultimate Chinese buffet, which had nine congees. I realised I badly needed a manicure. This was set up in a glass-walled, open-the-doors cabana right by the pool and beach. Happy young Chinese achievers, mum and dad and omnipresent child, played and frolicked in the hot sun. The cabana had working BBC and CNN, a bottle of Taittinger waited expectantly in an ice bucket, and there were skewers of chilled fruit. Mind you, this, and the first-class manicure, were only to be expected.
And then, to balance last evening’s ritual, I was lucky enough to see what happens every morning, at 8.30 a.m. Jean-Michel Gathy’s arrival area, the Dream Odyssey, is a mystical 30-metre circular pond, fed by water dripping from the inner edges of a peripheral half roof above. The round pool is surrounded by a square building, yin and yang, square for earth, round for the universe. A white-suited master goes into the centre of the pool and does tai chi as the rooftop water slowly begins its sequence for the day. Feng shui, or what you will, makes this a highly memorable luxury hotel.
Yes, children love Capella Sanya, but Atlantis Resort Sanya Haitang Bay is a kids’ hangout that is also designed for adults. Mummy and daddy, and grandparents if around, may revel in the Ahava spa, which specializes in salts from the Dead Sea. And they too will enjoy such signature Atlantis delights as the Lost Chambers aquarium, with over 86,000 marine animals, and the waterpark, which has special prices for kids under a certain height as well as for those over 70. And the shopping within the hotel is up to Macau, Singapore or Vegas standards.
This mammoth complex, stretching over 61 hectares, is owned by Fosun, master-planned by HOK. Interiors of the 1,314 rooms in the main 55-floor twisting accommodation block feature soft beiges, with muted teal. Once I got used to wearing my room key around my neck, in a yellow holster which meant something though I never worked out what – I was room 31120, one of 154 suites: I had a balcony a metre wide running the length of my bathroom, bedroom and living room. The room is designed for kids. I had a child’s toiletries set, and there were three robes and three sizes of blue slippers in the closet: colour coordination is well done, throughout. I dined in Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen, just as good here as in Dubai or Singapore.
Apart from one table of five Chinese men I was the only table without a child. High chairs and something to eat are brought as soon as a party arrives and there is not a single tear, the whole two hours I am there. Tonight I dine Australian. First, beverages. The drinks list’s most extravagant is a shot of Remy Martin Louis XIII at 1,588 RMB but I go for a glass of Renmano Chairman’s Selection Shiraz 2018, South Australia, at a mere 72RMB.
The bottle is brought to the table and a tasting is poured into my tall-stemmed Zwiesel glass. The wood table is set with Luzerne ceramic-look china, La Travola cutlery and chopsticks. I have a pulled-thread napkin. The manager cautions, in English, that the spicy tuna tartare, with blobs of avocado purée, is indeed ‘hot’, but it is bearable, and delicious. For grills, there are dry-aged specialties of today, but I choose, from the main menu, an Australian grass-fed Angus rib eye, which comes with a Laguiole knife, and, as requested, a paper-lined copper cup of flat fries, and a big china bowl of greens, broccoli and bok choi.
After that, and a good night’s sleep, I make use of the 24/7 Technogym (BBC and CNN work, unusually for China), check out breakfast in the 48th floor Club, which has an adjacent playroom for kids, and then revel in the massive nine-station buffet at Saffron, truly an experience that no age should miss. Oh yes, and this luxury-kids’-hangout also has a Miniversity for them, right here onsite. I head back to the airport, to return to Hong Kong.