Sanya, the baby sister of its 15 and 17 million strong Beijing and Shanghai siblings across the South China Sea, it is more of a 'town' than a city. With a population of 500,000 the narrower streets and local market places become the lifeblood of what is a dynamic but less frenetically paced centre.
Set up in grids of fruit, veggies, poultry, meat and seafood the indoor produce markets are cool and dark. It is here that daily life takes centre stage. Most are lit atmospherically by lone light bulbs hanging from high ceilings. A mother and daughter work nimbly on a pile of fresh dumplings, an older gentleman, with a cigarette perched on the edge of his lips, shows off some greens, the butchers, universally friendly, sport wide grins. Two women sit inside a booth chopping glazed orange chickens.
Outside, the streets are filled with the same industry as any buzzing city. But crossing the road doesn't require precision and death defying timing as motorbikes languidly weave their way in and out of the flow and vehicles move less frenetically. Pedestrians make their way home as night falls. A vendor, with a collection of long bamboo is selling sweet chunks to passers by.
Once dark, life of the streets of Sanya is no less vibrant. From the makeshift markets selling pearls and precious stones to the flashy neon lights of the shopping district where the young and trendy cruise the stalls, it is still a place that appears not to sleep.
And for interested shoppers, Sanya is known for some specialist items. Starting with pearls, which you can even pick up from vendors walking the stretches of Dadonghai or Yalong Bay beaches, there is no shortage of treats to take home. Other purchases might include black and white pepper, coffee, tea, dried seafood and tropical fruits.
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