Rod Pascoe stays at the Park Hyatt on Hainan Island, China.
Sunny Bay is part of Yalong Bay in China's southernmost province, Hainan, which the locals will proudly tell you is the only tropical region in the country. Yalong has a strip of 10 five-star resorts right on a magnificent fine-sand beach, with a few other five-star hotels in the vicinity. If the people's republic wasn't officially an atheist country, the Government in Beijing would probably promote this area as heaven on Earth.
First impressions: The Park Hyatt was pointed out to our Kiwi media delegation across Yalong Bay by an executive of the Sheraton — venue for the Miss World finals from 2003-05 — where we were having dinner on the beach. It looked like something out of the Soviet era, all rectangular tower blocks with sharp edges that seemed to make no effort to be attractive. From that distance, I thought it was ugly. But when darkness fell, the whole complex lit up to become a glowing white edifice against the dark backdrop of a tropical rainforest mountain. Absolutely beautiful.
Check-in experience: We arrived after dark and were greeted at the door with a drink and a friendly welcome from the manager. After our passports were checked, I was guided to my room by a staff member. Which was just as well: The hotel is spread over six buildings, and despite its breathtaking luxury and the exquisite corridor furniture, floral displays, vases, lamps, lanterns, sculptures and paintings that are everywhere, it's like a rabbit warren, and none of our group could find their way around. I would gladly volunteer to come back if the management wants someone to road-test the signage and suggest improvements.
Room: My first thought on entering my room on the 13th floor of building two was, Oh my God, these people must think I'm the Herald's managing editor. It was huge, the most palatial suite I have ever stayed in (and that includes the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, which I have always thought has to be one of the most special hotels in all Asia, if not the world).
Price: China Travel Service Auckland has negotiated a rate of $900 for two nights including diving excursions for two and breakfasts.
Toilet: Did you ever think you'd see a newspaper review of a toilet? Well there's always a first time for everything, and here it is: This suite is so posh, it has a loo that not only has art on the wall, it senses when you enter the room and raises the lid automatically. The seat is heated, and the toilet doubles as a top-of-the-range bidet which is so flash it has controls that can increase the strength of the water jet and cause it to oscillate and pulsate. You want the truth? It's quite erotic. I hadn't personally seen a bidet since I was a New Zealand yachting team manager in Europe in 1978 and a 16-year-old — who would go on to be world champion twice — did No 2s in one and asked me to help him figure out how to flush things away! (He hadn't noticed there was a separate toilet.)
Bathroom: It runs the length of the suite — about 20 metres — has his and hers handbasins, a massive shower with a marble ledge to sit on, and a double-width bath for lovers who want an extra touch of romance. It wasn't until I was brushing my teeth on the last day that I discovered part of the bathroom mirror is also a television screen.
Bed: Super-comfortable and super big. A Chinese family of mum, dad and the little emperor could fit in it and there'd still be plenty of room for the cat, dog and visiting mother-in-law.
Special touches: The range of teas was a pleasant discovery for this tea addict, and the Nespresso coffee-making machine was a welcome extra too. I'm still trying to figure out what the torch was for — could it be to find my way around the expanse of my suite in a power blackout? The electronic scales in the bathroom assured me I wasn't putting on weight despite the generosity of my Chinese hosts. But the feature I most appreciated was the electronically controlled blackout screens, which didn't let in even a hint of daylight and let me sleep in undisturbed.
What's in the district: The tropical rainforest behind the hotel almost beckons visitors to go for a tramp. But when I set out one morning to do just that, I and fellow Aucklander Lisa Li were warned off by the hotel staff. It's a military area, and soldiers would know in no time that we had entered their patch. The driveway from the Park Hyatt out to the hotel security gates was 4km long, so we power-walked that instead.
What's missing? When I stayed at the Dorsett Hotel in Wanchai, Hong Kong, before flying to Hainan, I was impressed that each guest was given a mobile device that enabled them to make phone calls free of charge to nine countries including the UK, US and Australia (good for ringing the rellies on the Gold Coast!). It also acted as a Wi-Fi hotspot, among many other features. The Dorsett PR chief told me this feature was becoming common in hotels of four stars and above, but the Park Hyatt in Sunny Bay has yet to follow suit. Hopefully it won't be long.
View: My suite looked out over manicured lawns and gardens to Yalong Bay and the stretch of rival resorts in the distance. Near the Park Hyatt's beach, I spotted a wedding and rushed down to share the couple's joy and get a few photos. Talk about no expense spared! The photography team alone — including videographers and aerial drone operator — numbered 10. TEN! I would hate to have been paying the bill for that ceremony.
The beach looks beautiful, with its fine white sand, loungers and two-person tents. But just two steps into the water and I was standing on a bed of coral and large stones and rocks. I found it too painful and awkward to go any further. Fortunately, the swimming pool was super-inviting. It's huge — 115m long — and has overhanging trees that provide shade when the sun is doing its best to drive people back into the air-conditioned indoors. Even at 7.15am, the water was warm.
Wi-Fi: Free. But you can't get Google or Facebook. The powers-that-be in Beijing don't approve of them.
Would I return? Is the Pope a Roman Catholic? I was quite humbled — and honoured — to be hosted in such tranquil opulence. But after staying at the Park Hyatt, I fear that from now on, every other hotel will feel decidedly second rate.
The Park Hyatt Sanya Sunny Bay Resort is at 5 Sunny Bay Road, Yalong Bay National Resort District, Sanya, China. Phone: +86 898 8820 1234.