Tag Archives: China

A getaway in Sanya encapsulates life’s rainbow of emotions

By: Lakshmi

We love tropical getaways and Hawaii is a favorite.  So it did not take much to convince us that a visit to Sanya, the “Hawaii of the East” would be a vacation that would appeal to all senses.  Little did we know then that the spectacular beauty of this getaway would bear witness to one of life’s irreversible losses.

Boarding our flight at Guangzhou airport, we got the much dreaded call.  My beloved 92-year-old grandmother who had been ailing for some time with esophageal cancer was now in the “death-rattle” stage, a phase that signifies imminent death.  We were deeply saddened, but did not register that the end was near.  A few hours later, we landed in tropical Sanya on a perfect day and boarded our car to the Marriott.  And then came the call, that grandma had passed away.

It was surreal; here we were admist breathtaking natural beauty, in a car taking us to a beautiful resort and dealing with a devastating loss.  We all took turns sobbing in the car and our driver who did not speak a stitch of English was bewildered….Did he pick up three looney bins at the airport?  Is this trio crazy to be in such a beautiful spot and yet crying their hearts out?  He seemed nervous and this was confirmed when we had the most hurried drop off at the hotel.

We saw the ocean stretching as far as the eye could see.  Groves of palm trees and huge overflowing masses of tropical flowers.  Coconuts and coconut water being devoured by the guests.  Was it destiny that led us to be in a place that was in so many ways a mirror image of where grandma spent all her years….in Trivandrum, Kerala in southern India.  She loved fresh flowers, coconuts were integral to everything that she cooked and loved to eat.  We dragged ourselves to our hotel room and talked about her role in our lives.  We cried, we laughed and we asked for more tissues.

The hotel was beautiful, situated on prime real estate on Yalong Bay with beautifully landscaped grounds, a well maintained beach, and a handful of tourists (the Chinese had not yet learnt that lazing at a beach resort was the best way to holiday!).  We spent hours sitting at the beach, talking, bonding, laughing and crying.  We felt joy at the beauty before us and tremendous sadness at our loss.  We felt guilt for being some place so perfect, when one of our dearest had lost her battle for life.  On our last evening there, as we were taking a long walk on the beach, we came across the Ritz Carlton.  We walked into Fresh 8, a beautiful restaurant that had a buffet benefiting royalty.  Reluctant to spend a lot on a meal which may not be vegetarian friendly, and feeling guilt at having such a lavish meal so soon after a loss, we started walking away.  That’s when the restaurant manager approached us.  He assured us that we would have a great meal with choices from all of the food stations.   He walked us over to a station where they were serving Indian food.  The chef it turns out was from southern India.  Was this grandma’s way of saying she loved us?  Varieties of foods were laid out at our table, till we could eat no more.  As we walked into the night and looked at the stars, we knew that the star in our lives would always be watching over us and Sanya would always hold a bittersweet place in our hearts.

To stay at the Marriott resort in Sanya, click here.


To stay at the Ritz Carlton in Sanya, click here.


24,901 Miles A Second

By: Siddhi (written after a trip to Lhasa, Tibet in 2007) 

The globe spins, rotating effortlessly beneath the twirl of my fingertips. The blur of colors surge in a whirlpool motion, fascinating, but incoherent. 24, 901 miles flash before my eyes every few seconds.  I just saw the entire world twenty times in a single minute.

Our jeep rattled forward on the rugged, mountainous terrain of Lhasa– the sacred origin of Tibetan Buddhism. The landscape was a living still-life painting; the beauty I had only seen in museum art splattered on a canvas of reality. It was exactly how the travel books had described it – dreamy. My camera’s shutter snapped every few moments as I reveled in the sight.

That was until I saw the walking scarecrows. They were haggard, bent over rails of bone. They were emaciated, barefoot corpses with cloth satchels. They were children on their daily three-hour walk to school. Almost suddenly, the majestic beauty of the Himalayas was reduced to nothing but those languished faces. The yellow mustard fields, the snow-capped plateaus, the skies of white gold – everything felt hideously out of place. The earth our tires tread belonged to a class of peace-driven people who for generations worked to uphold their beliefs in karma and nonviolence. And these same people were now, in front of my own eyes, walking a deathly walk, only hoping that the Chinese soldiers that infested their land wouldn’t beat them to the ground.

I was numb. Somehow I managed to bring the camera to my eyes, and clicked.  This time, it wasn’t just a digital image I had saved onto a card, but a fresh wound in the flesh of my conscience, a permanent scar in my naivety.

One month after I returned home, mainstream news channels flashed with clips of violent Tibetan uprisings against Chinese soldiers. The families of those skeletal kids, who walked under blazing furnaces every day to be educated, were portrayed as the savages. They were greedy, selfish monsters that were unwilling to sacrifice personal freedoms for the “better good”.   I felt irascible desperation. I was there. I had seen through my viewfinder those same impoverished villages, living in raw fear.

The naked, poverty-stricken children selling flutes for food in the heart of Cambodia; the Chinese freedom of expression being squashed by the oppressive fist of communism; Thai citizens in constant limbo between life and death. Unlike most teenagers whose vista of the world is based on reported realities in the media, I have been fortunate enough to experience these global truths firsthand. From the moment the plane scrapes the runway, what I know about the world I live in is mutated, enlarged and ultimately diminished. The more I see, the more I realize I’ve seen nothing. Whether that’s a blessing or a curse, I don’t know, because my innocence is gone. I don’t believe things at face value anymore because I know there’s something beneath the surface.

I need to help tear down these walls. Countries have stories, people have stories; truth, that is subdued by bias and ignorance. These realities lurk beneath the filmy surfaces of the piles and piles of photographs I’ve taken over the years. Going back and looking at some of these pictures almost always unleashes that same feeling of discomfort and angst I felt when I saw that slanted view of Tibetan uprisings. With my camera, maybe I’ll be able to do a sliver of justice to the human condition. Before I can do anything though, I have to know.

The globe slows down, the mar of colors gradually forming a fluid image. But it’s still incoherent. I don’t see the familiar oceans, continents, islands- I see a vastly uncharted map, an enigma that I have yet to completely understand. Luckily, I’ve got a camera. And I’m only eighteen.