Three Thai Ladies and Sanya’s Fave Homestyle Food at Dolphin

By Vanessa Jencks, November 3, 2021

0 0

Once while at a Thai spa in Dadonghai, I was surprised to actually hear Thai being spoken. If you’ve spent any time in these spas, you also might have come to realize that the women popping your joints are actually expats from Thailand.

A few months later, a friend recommended a newly opened Thai restaurant in Dadonghai. Of course, I appreciated the tip, but felt even luckier when I stumbled across Fern W., a friendly Thai woman asking for help in a WeChat group.

WechatIMG30.jpegImage via Fern W.

I suggested she and I go together to try the newly opened Thai place. She was new to Sanya, so why not?

Brief Thai Restaurant Review Cut Short

Long story short, instead of just lunch plans between the two of us, we ended up going to the Breakletics class by Hainan Fit at Mojo with two of her friends followed by dinner. I found it ironic that they wouldn’t join the class if it was yoga, as Fern explained to me, “It’s too hard.” Some of these Thai ladies are literally causing pain by stretching muscles beyond reason.

Image via Fern W.

We didn’t have much time to chat at the class beyond Fern introducing Polly C. and Yoyo T. who joined her. All three of the ladies are trilingual, though their language skills vary, and our conversations went from English to Chinese and back before they translated or chatted to one another in Thai.

After the class at Mojo, we hopped on our mopeds and arrived in front of the Thai restaurant in just a few moments.

When they saw the sign, they giggled a bit. Fern asked, “Do you know what that says?” Of course not. “Thai breakfast.” Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

The guard soon came by and told us that we needed to park more to the wall so cars could get by. After appeasing him, we went inside.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

At night, the restaurant and inn is beautiful. The lighting is nice and the wood chips filling the floor are unique. We sat down and after waiting for the menu for a few awkward minutes, we were told to scan the QR code to see the menu.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

I felt pretty embarrassed after seeing the menu. This wasn’t a place for dinner but perhaps for a quick lunch or late night snack if you’re starving. Polly pointed out one dish that she thought could possibly be authentic Thai.

With so little to try, we decided not to bother, because ultimately this was an article about friendship and the Thai community as much as it was about this restaurant. They gave me the recommendation of a place that is authentically Thai, but they commented the curry is a bit expensive in their opinion.

So as we stood there with plans falling apart, trying to decide where to go, Dolphin was mentioned multiple times. And that’s how I’ve stumbled upon a review of Dolphin Sports Bar & Grill while interviewing these three lovely Thai women who live in Sanya.

Sanya’s Food Community Pillar

What can I say about Dolphin? When we had settled on eating there, Polly commented, “Ah, second home.” She’s right. For many expats in Sanya, this local watering hole lives up to its slogan, “Dolphin - Makes You Feel At Home.”

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

When we arrived, we were fifth in line with a twenty-minute wait. As we stood cheesing smiles at one another on the porch, I decided to say hello to the people I knew already sitting down. One needed to talk business, while another apologized for nearly running into my child while he was riding his bike home from school. Kisses on cheeks were had from friends who love our family, and I spied out if there was anyone else I knew inside.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

Dolphin really is the community focal point of Sanya expats. Even for people who would normally avoid bars in their Western lifestyles back home, Dolphin as a hangout space has no current rival.

We all like that the food is consistently good and decent quality. Due to this, it holds many memories for the casual weekend lunch, special occasion dinner for holidays or the sideway hello as town gossip stirs up and spreads like a virus.

When still operating as JADE, we held the language mixer with a special menu. Teachers of four different languages helped attendees relax and stumble over new phrases in Afrikaans, Swahili, Spanish and Norwegian.

Dolphin is where the owner of That’s met the beginning members of the Sanya team for the first time and when it was decided to move on to the next step of forming That’s Sanya.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

On that momentous night, I had a salad, maybe the Southwestern Steak Salad (RMB60) or Caesar Salad (RMB45), and others on the team had one of their many burgers (RMB60 to RMB70 for the Dolphin Surf Burger, Santa Fe Burger, Four Cheese Burger and The Jagermeister BBQ Burger). We filled our table with appetizers, both the Chili & Cheese Fries (RMB70) and the Mexican Quesadilla (RMB65 for Chicken or Beef) before chatting and laughing.

The creative but sometimes odd parties have brought infamous ‘Holiday Boys’ who are simply looking for a short-lived good time with girls and a free tour of the best spots in Sanya if she’s a local. Dolphin captures all the drama through their party photographer, who posts snaps via a live QR code.

Through these photos and small town gossip, we’ve seen and heard of many Sanya-based ladies starting off thinking it’s a great place to meet a stable expat man from around the country, but love-at-first-sight stories are still Disney fantasies. Nonetheless, if you’re a beautiful woman, there’s probably someone willing to buy you a drink. Cocktails are solid at reasonable prices (Cosmopolitan RMB35, Mojito RMB40 and Long Island Ice Tea RMB45), and there are always deals at Dolphin.

Relaxed nights often lead to Frisbees being thrown in front of the porch, so don’t park a luxury car there. We all know it’s rented anyway. Nights often end sitting at a table with new friends met only a few hours earlier.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

Managers and staff are known by name, and sports enthusiasts can usually watch their desired game if a crowd is brought with them.

Very rare crazy nights bring brawls and police, though most nights are filled with regulars. Though ‘Dolphin Girl’ is not a name any Sanya-based female wants, the pool-playing usuals have fierce competitions and the band regulars are some of Sanya’s favorite people.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

Consistently Good Food

Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried so many things that instead of noting what’s good, I need to pick out what’s not the best. The Tex Mex is as close to authentic as you’ll get in China, but it’s still really good for those who miss it, (Sizzling Fajitas RMB65, Chicken Enchilada RMB65).

The Tex Mex Salad (RMB65 for Chicken) is a special Instagram-worthy treat as it’s served in a warm, hardened tortilla bowl. You can’t lose weight eating this salad though.

The Pulled Pork Sandwich (RMB65) is too dry to be considered authentically Southern. I’m from South Carolina, the state where we fight over which flavor of BBQ sauce is best, yellow or red, and my father frequently made pulled pork for dinner. I was a lucky and well-fed child. The Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich (RMB70) is also too dry compared to what I’ve had in the US.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

My family enjoys all of their pizzas, but it’s not usually where we go for pizza. Salami & Mushroom Pizza (RMB60), Italian Parma Ham Pizza (RMB60), Supreme Pizza (RMB65), Margherita Pizza (RMB55) and Four Cheese Pizza (RMB60) are all good for satisfying kid-cries for food. Personally, I’m not a fan of their Truffle Beef Pizza (RMB70), but each to their own.

I can’t remember which wrap I tried on their menu, but it simply wasn’t as memorable as their burgers. Wraps range from RMB50 to 65 and come with the classic two picks for sides of either fries, potato wedges, coleslaw or green salad. I also haven’t tried the steaks or ribs.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

Their Brunch Menu is loved by others I’ve seen visiting Sanya. With an opening at 11am, I am too much of a mom to wait until that hour for breakfast food. I’m also too cheap to not make it myself since I live here and have easy access to a kitchen.

Tourists shouldn’t mind though, and they typically don’t. Prices range from RMB45 for their classic Good Morning Breakfast to RMB60 for Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon. Skip coffee unless you’re desperate, as Starbucks offers more volume just across the street.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

Troubles for the Thai Community

Tired of waiting and chatting while standing up, Fern saw that a two person table by the pool table was available. She quickly asked the waitress if we could pull up extra chairs.

Once we sat down, I was finally able to ask them questions about their lives here.

Fern studied Chinese ten years ago, but recently has been in China for the last two years after marrying her husband, a Chinese chef she met in Thailand. She has only been in Sanya for one month.

Polly has lived in Sanya for a year but was in Kunming for five years. Polly is quite private and asked I not share some details about her, but she was incredibly funny.

Yoyo started her China journey in Tianjin and spent a year there under a horrid boss. She ran away with her passport, worked in Haikou for a year, then came to Sanya with the same company from Haikou. She’s been here for a month.

The funny thing about cross-cultural exchanges is you never know what will happen. I ordered a burger fully expecting to really eat dinner with them, as Fern had said she was still hungry even though the other two had already eaten dinner.

I felt just a tad chubby chowing down on a Dolphin House Beef Burger (RMB65) as they sipped on smoothies and a milkshake. Smoothies are delicious and all are RMB30. Mango Madness, Very Berry, Blueberry Hill and Avocado Coconut are all awesome. Milkshakes are on the lighter side, so if you want a thick drink reminiscent of home, go to DQ instead.

Image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s

Though Dolphin does fill your belly with food to make you miss home, it just doesn’t replace friendship. Polly told That’s that the community in Kunming was easier for her to find and make friends. One reason is that there are many more Thai people there, but another Fern pointed to is that the culture is very different.

Image via Yoyo T.

Thai people are generally more open and warm, kind of a mix between the East and West, due to so many mixing of cultures in Thailand. But overall Fern is happier here, as she struggled to make friends in Shenzhen, Ningbo, Chongqing and Wuhan, following her husband for his job. She likes the beach life much better than big cities in China.

Image via Yoyo T.

Yoyo likes her boss in Sanya much more than the one from Tianjin, who wasn’t fair and kept delaying salary payments. Like many first time expats, Yoyo allowed her Tianjin boss to keep her passport, so she had to ‘steal’ it to get away. 

This points to the struggle many expats in China face, not knowing their legal rights in China as employees or what to do when employers are unfair, demanding long hours, refusing salary payout, and even skirting things like maternity rights. Corrupt business owners seem to be alike all around the world, with their interests in money and not in upholding the laws of China.

Despite this unfortunate experience elsewhere in China, Yoyo really enjoys all of Hainan due to the weather, trees and vegetables available for cooking. She struggled to pick between chicken rice and Hainan hot pot as her favorite Hainan dishes.

The night was full of laughter and fun as we slipped in and out of languages. I sighed at one point, feeling that this was the international experience I still longed for.

Dolphin Sports Bar & Grill
Daily, 11am-2am. Parties start most nights at 9.30pm. Shops 4 and 5, Building A, Yinlong Commercial and Residential Building, Yuya Avenue, Dadonghai.
See listing.

Connect for Friendship or Food

Fern didn’t know of any other Thai expats outside of the small network she has related to her work. If you are from Thailand or know any Thai expats, please join this group for Thai connections or share this article with them. It is so important for expats to connect to one another so they can share their experiences and create more stable lives.


Is there a restaurant in town That’s should review soon? We’ll be inviting members of the Sanya community to join us for lunch or dinner again soon. Join the group to pass us foodie tips or fill out the information on restaurants we already reviewed, like Dolphin steaks or other Pizza Republica items.


READ MORE: Haikou Coffee Talks: Hainanese Dimsum at Hundred Flavors 百回味茶园

Often teased to be the ‘Queen of Sanya,’ Vanessa Jencks has grown to dislike unmerited spotlight and prefers to keep to her husband and best friend, two kids and family-like-friends she can trust. Shy upon meeting but finding a story in every corner and person, Jencks isn’t afraid to express her mind or step up to leadership when needed.

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:


[Cover image by Vanessa Jencks/That’s]

Follow That’s Sanya 

Stay up to date on all things Sanya. Find us on FacebookInstagram and WeChat (Search for SanyaPlus) or scan the QR code below. Click ‘follow’ to get daily info about Sanya – from hotels and holiday options, beaches to mountains, restaurants to nightlife, fitness to spas – as well as talking to the diverse people who make Sanya the destination it is.


more news

20 Sanya Events: Tango Dance Workout & More Parties

There's always something fun to do in Sanya.

16 Spicy Sanya Events: Festivals, Glamping, Shows & More

Sanya events will keep you busy during the Dragon Boat Festival weekend.

10 Sanya Events: Sports, Parties, Movies & More

Lots of fun in the sun in Sanya!

Fun Kids Football Lessons in Sanya with Kind, Professional Coach this CNY

Let your kids have fun this Chinese New Year with great football lessons.

5 Sanya Events to Look Forward To

There's a bit of a lull before Sanya heats up for Chinese New Year.

14 Dazzling New Year's Events in Sanya

We wish you a wonderful and happy New Year!

20 Happy Holiday Events and Activities in Sanya

Plenty to do in Sanya this weekend!

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsSanya for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Sanya With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Sanya!

Visit the archives