With the Labour Day holiday (May 1-3) approaching, the thoughts of many Chinese are turning to idyllic islands and beautiful beaches. According to Qunar, the largest Chinese-language travel website, this month’s five most commonly searched for island destinations are:
1. Sanya, Hainan province
The coastal city has 20km stretches of beach, which are attracting an increasing number of mainland holidaymakers, especially those from the cold-temperate zones of northern and northeastern areas of China.
Sanya is particularly popular for its convenience – mainland Chinese do not need a visa, nor do they need to face the horror of a long-haul flight. The opening of the world’s biggest duty-free mall in central Sanya, in September last year, is an added plus.
Seafood is a must-try, but beware of price scams at dai pai dong’s, even though the local government has vowed to crack down on such practices.
2. Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, and has 32 offshore small islets. As one of Thailand’s premier tourist destinations, basic English is spoken, especially in the beach areas.
Some tourists complain of excessive commercialisation, but the tourism industry here is mature enough to cater to a wide variety of visitors, from young backpackers enjoying cheap food at street markets and accommodation in tree houses to high-end guests staying at five-star luxury hotels.
Watersports, particularly scuba diving, are popular.
3. Bali, Indonesia
A perennial favourite for mainland Chinese honeymooners, favoured for its stunning views of mountains, farmland, forests and sea.
Home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority and the largest tourist destination in the country, Bali is also renowned for its arts, dance and sculptures.
Often called a paradise on earth, the Maldives is another top choice among mainland travellers for weddings and honeymoons. More than 400,000 Chinese are expected to visit the remote Indian Ocean nation this year, thanks to direct flights, free visas on arrival, pristine beaches and refined resorts.
The Maldives made headlines when President Xi Jinping visited in September and reminded Chinese tourists to behave themselves when travelling abroad.
“Do not litter. Do not damage coral reefs. Eat fewer instant noodles and more local seafood,” Xi advised.
5. Boracay, the Philippines
White sand is the chief attraction for most mainlanders visiting Boracay, where beaches easily compete with the best of neighbouring Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In September Chinese authorities warned nationals against travelling to the Philippines in the wake of media reports over attempted attacks on the Chinese embassy and Chinese companies. This caused a fall in arrivals, particularly from tour groups, although main beaches are still crowded with tourists from Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Even so, the picture-perfect sunsets continue to make the island appealing to independent tourists from the mainland, particularly honeymooners and water sports enthusiasts.
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