12 May Sanya, Penang’s Long-Lost Sibling City
Recently, Penang became a ‘Friendship City’ with the Hainanese resort city of Sanya, known as a winter retreat for Chinese citizens of the North. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Penang also happens to be a tourist hotspot for winter-weary travelers.
Indeed, picturesque views of bright sunshine, clear-blue sea waters and wide sandy beaches pique the interests of visitors both from home in China and abroad. Attaining a reputation as the “oriental Hawaii”, the city is admired for its favourable climate, green vegetation and enjoyable seaside recreation, not unlike our own Penang!
40 kilometers west of Sanya City lay the Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Zone, which houses a three-sided statue of Guan Yin Buddha, amongst picturesque sea and beach views. Recently completed, the statue stands 108m tall on an artificial island, and is even taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty. Like Nanshan, Penang has its own Guan Yin Buddha statue located at Air Itam’s Kek Lok Si temple, though this statue stands at 30.2m tall; it overlooks the George Town skyline from atop the hills.
Another similarity Sanya shares with Penang are its street and restaurant culture. Various bars and restaurants are strewn along the streets, offering plenty of nightlife recreation and variable dining options for its lively patrons. Sanya is also renowned for is its affinity for notable street markets selling various local goods and foods. Among the local delicacies being offered there are barbecued seafood, grilled corn and local sweets such as qīngbǔliáng, a cold sweet soup; and chǎobīng, also known as fried ice akin to a sorbet. It isn’t until nightfall though that these markets truly come to life.
In retrospect, Sanya really isn’t all that different than Penang, having very similar cultural and geographical traits. Perhaps it’s a surprise that it took them quite some time to realize that they are indeed sibling cities that fit each other to a T.