More taking holidays in China's deep south
Sun Ye, Liang Qipeng, Li Jiang
00:41
A beach of an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /Photo by Ma Jiao

A beach of an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /Photo by Ma Jiao

A growing number of Chinese are spending their Spring Festival holidays on the islands of Sansha City in south China's Hainan Province, an island province in the South China Sea.

The islands boast of some of the country's most pristine waters and sands, just like those at the Maldives.

But it only explains part of their growing popularity.

Scenes from an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /Photo by Ma Jiao

Scenes from an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /Photo by Ma Jiao

Zhou Rui, who traveled with her friend there a few days before the Chinese New Year, told CGTN: “China is so big and diverse. I've always wanted to go to the four ends of the country and this is as far south as we can go. I had to come and see it for myself.

“I'm also treating myself after a whole year of heavy work... and getting away from my boss.”  

But the real highlight of the trip for many is to witness the landmark flag-raising ceremony.

A tourist during the Chinese New Year holiday at an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /CGTN Photo

A tourist during the Chinese New Year holiday at an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /CGTN Photo

Guo Xiaofeng, who traveled with her husband to the islands, said that it's her life's wish to step on the islands. 

“I was already beside myself when I learned that we could land in Xisha," she said. "Oh, and when I saw the national flag raised up high, I felt such exceptional pride and honor. All my love goes to my motherland and to my fellow Chinese.”

Visitors pose for a picture during their Chinese New Year holiday on an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /CGTN Photo

Visitors pose for a picture during their Chinese New Year holiday on an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province. /CGTN Photo

These are sentiments echoed by many on the cruise trip that costs around 1,000 U.S. dollars.

Wang Zongyue, chief officer at the Changlegongzhu Cruiseship said, “Of all the people who made it this far, I've found that all of them are infused with a great sense of national pride coming to these southern islands.”

The route was launched six years ago.

“Six years ago we would set sail maybe once a month. But now, it's back-to-back departures. And we are fully booked over the Chinese New Year," Wang said.

Tourist at an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province, during the Chinese New Year holiday. /CGTN Photo

Tourist at an island of Sansha City, south China's Hainan Province, during the Chinese New Year holiday. /CGTN Photo

Some 50,000 have been here. More are undoubtedly coming. And the islands have managed to keep their pristine beauty.

On entering the islands, people are warned of taking anything away including shells, sands or rocks, except photos taken there.