PHOTOS: Sanya's Ugly-Beautiful Fishing Village on a Hillside

By Vanessa Jencks, July 23, 2021

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As it goes with some older developments in China, fishing villages built on a hillside so steep scooters sometimes won’t make it up might not survive the next five to ten years in the Hainan Free Trade Port plan.


In terms of urban planning and development, it’s like vomit on a map. Streets meet up to each other in chaos causing crazy but slow traffic as scooter taxis drive past one another and pedestrians swim across this way and that. Every once in a while, a car rolls by breaking the bulk of the traffic, and the driver’s face can be seen through the window, absent of anxiety after having accepted the fate of the fishing village traffic.


On the ground dry, old pavement mimics Sanya’s wave crests. Apartment homes are built so close that cars might not make it to their haphazard parking spots among building stilts.


In the air, wires and poles crisscross among the trees and strings of flags flutter in waves over a side street.


In terms of a place to people watch and experience a simple kind of culture, it’s a jackpot.

On the busier streets you’ll be surprised to see on first floors elders sitting on the steps of their homes with a wide open door to display a full view of the shrine of their family’s god. The eerie red glow fills their room at dusk, creating this surreal look of a home-cave.

Men huddle around one another to play a game and smoke.


Children chase a roaming small dog and not a single grandmother chastises them about danger.

Shopkeepers busy with their trade are watched, while shopkeepers indifferent in the lazy heat are watching pedestrians, not even attempting to get their business.

Popular restaurants have happy, hungry customers who have spilled out on to the round tables set up on the sidewalk.

And then there are hints of the fishing village’s certain demise.

New, flashy hairdresser salons have brought in teams of employees, some who have gathered outside to joke and laugh.

A streamlined coffee and tea shop borrowed from the name of a popular brand to create their own version of 星 coffee.


A well-known fast food Chinese brand somehow found its way into these messy streets.

If you find yourself among the ugly but beautiful streets of Sanya’s fishing village we recommend you find a shop for Hainan coconut chicken, chaobing, a bowl of qingbuliang or a dish of fish dough dumplings.


You can also settle into the area’s funky purple inn with a coffee shop and a rooftop bar. We don’t recommend the rooftop until the sun has gone down as its just too hot until then.

Next door to that purple inn is another botique inn with several heavy dish options and a view of a pool we wouldn’t necessarily recommend for a swim.

And if you don’t mind exiting the village for food, just across is a fish market with one of the most amazing locations for a sunset view.

Summer Tree Coffee and Inn
Daily, check in from 2pm-midnight. Check out before noon. See listing.

Wushe Garden Inn
Daily, check in after 2pm. Check out before noon. See listing.

Luhuitou Penninsula Fish Market
Daily, 11am-11.00pm. See listing.

READ MORE: 23 Sanya Events: SUP Certification, Pool Parties, Treasure Hunts & More 

Need a ride? Avoid the expensive fares in Sanya by avoiding Didi or rent a scooter.

Would you like to promote your business, organization or product? Contact Vanessa Jencks via email at and on WeChat by scanning the QR code below:


[Photos by Vanessa Jencks/ That’s]

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