Sanya, my family’s beloved vacation destination

September 15, 2023 — by Zack Zhang
All photos by Zack Zhang
A collage of my memories in Sanya.
Sanya, where my family would visit more than four times a year, is a warm island in southern China. Due to COVID-19, I haven’t been able to go back for the past three years.

Whenever I am at a beach, feeling the fresh ocean breeze graze my face and the moisture of cold sand tickle my feet, my mind will subconsciously shout out that I am back in Sanya, the home of all my cherished childhood memories.

Sanya, a small island that cover only 736 square miles, is located in Southern China. Prompted by my parents’ love for Sanya and our regular visits there when I was young, I learned to love it more and more over the years. I enjoyed our calm vacations where I fully relaxed my mind and played as childishly as I wanted. Coincidentally, it is also one of the few places where I can escape my pollen allergy. 

Sanya remains the best vacation destination for my entire family no matter the season. During winter, we escaped the freezing temperatures in Beijing. During summer, we enjoyed the cool ocean that most Chinese cities don’t have. 

However, due to Covid and moving to the U.S., I haven’t been able to visit Sanya in four years. And as I get busier in high school, the worry-free times I spent in this city of beautiful beaches seem far away.

One of the small yet meaningful family traditions my father and I share is to look at the sunrise in Sanya.

Whenever we visit, my father would take me on early-morning adventures to see the sunrise at the beach, a special moment between the two of us. 

While waking up at 5 a.m. may sound exhausting, it’s certainly a great time to avoid the crowdedness at the beach. Sometimes, it would just be me, my dad and the ocean. As we stepped onto the unoccupied shore, a wave of relaxation would wash over me. 

Waiting for the sun to rise was a magical experience; everything happens in a span of just two to three minutes. At first, the sky already seems bright and lit, but without the sun, the atmosphere is still cold. Waiting for the crack of dawn makes all the stress and unpleasantness of reality disappear at this moment.

The sun appears as a thin slice of a dimmed yellow light. In just a matter of seconds, the light burns orange followed by blood red. Interestingly, you can stare directly into the sun when it’s just above the sea.

At this time, more people will likely show up on the beach and there’s nothing more for my father and I to wait for, as the sun has risen entirely above the horizon. Walking back to the hotel, passing by the boundless swimming pools and smelling the breakfast buffet, I would enjoy a great start to another day in Sanya.

Sanya has some of the most unforgettable and astonishing hotel resorts I’ve ever been to; Atlantis has to be among the top.

This premier beach destination in China has pulled at my heartstrings ever since my last visit in 2019. Others can have Hawaii, Bahamas, Bali or Fiji as their favorite islands. For me it will always be Sanya, where I left countless footprints of my childhood, and where I hope to reunite with my memories once again someday.

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