Yalong Bay Bird Nest Resort in Sanya, Hainan Island, became a tourist attraction after it was the setting for the 2010 blockbuster sequel to director Feng Xiaogang's If You Are the One. Huang Yiming / China Daily
Resort hotels are usually nice to look at, but rarely do they become attractions in their own right, drawing hordes of ticket-buying tourists who may not be able to afford an overnight stay but want to get a peek at where someone else has stayed.
Not just stayed, but perhaps fell in and out of love.
Yalong Bay Bird Nest Resort is that rare exception - partly because it has an origin story. It is not a mythological tale or a folk legend, but a movie plot.
The 2010 blockbuster sequel to If You Are the One, directed by box-office wizard Feng Xiaogang, sets the main part of the love story here. When Shu Qi, the female lead, walks across a 168-meter rope ridge to the thatched cottage she has made home, it just looks so incredibly romantic.
Now you can pay thousands of yuan for a night at this 180-sq-m hut - if you book sufficiently in advance. However, most of the 142 villas are much more compact and affordable. All of these structures are elevated on steel poles inserted into the hillside, thus having the minimum adverse effect on the ecology. They offer an expansive view of shimmering rice paddies, beyond which is the stretch of Yalong Bay's ultra-modern international brands of luxury resorts, and then the big blue sea.
The Bird Nest Resort, however, is nothing like the grand hotels along the beach. It epitomizes a Zen experience. If you have a phobia of small animals around the house or an occasional lizard on the wall, you should stay away. But management does make sure real harm, such as snakes are kept at bay (by spraying the edge of the wood planks that surround the huts).
The Bird Next Resort is part of Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise, which is open to day visitors. Covering 1,500 hectares of mountains, it is the habitat of 1,500 species of tropical plants and 190 species of wild animals. Only a bus ride away from downtown Sanya or 30 km from the airport, it is constantly jostling with tourists.
The most crowded spot is of course the rope drawbridge, where people have to wait under giant banyan trees to start the clamber. It is very difficult to conjure up the movie moment of lonely melancholy. A look at the treetops beneath will get you into the three-dimensional universe of reality: A straggle of colorful hats blown off from tourists on the dangling and slightly swaying bridge adorns the ravine below.
Actually, much of the resort facility is barred from tourist gaze. For example, the pools are off limits. However, there are many sites catering to day visitors. The Canghai Tower is a multi-story pavilion that overlooks the bay and the surrounding mountains. And a statue of a flying dragon nearby adds a smidgen of Chinese color to an increasingly globalized hub of international tourism.
For the religious minded, a mammoth natural stone in the shape of a relaxing Buddha has been the object of worship for local ethnic Li people for hundreds of years, and is now the magnet for believers from all over.
The hilltop restaurants are open to everyone. Besides great food and a panorama, they play non-stop the movie that made the place nationally famous. You can find out for yourself how tourism charm rubs off movie glitter.