Farmers of the Li ethnic group trim plants at the rose valley in Sanya, Hainan province. CHINA DAILY
As its landscape and hospitality features increasingly remind people of Hawaii and Dubai, a rose valley in Hainan province is emerging as an ecological and leisure lure that gives off a Claude Monet-style elegance and romance to the country's only tropical province.
Wearing a bamboo hat and scarf to shield herself from the scorching sun, Li Yumei, a mother of three children, and other local women carefully trim the rose plants that will begin to blossom in about a month at the Yalong Bay International Rose Valley in Sanya, at the southern tip of Hainan, which is building itself as an international tourist destination.
It is the spot President Xi Jinping visited some four years ago, where he donned a bamboo hat and posed for a photo with several women who work in the rose fields.
"I cherish the meeting with President Xi very much because since his visit to the rose valley on April 9, 2013, our life has been improving day by day. I was so excited seeing that President Xi was very concerned about our life that I involuntarily handed my bamboo hat to him when he came to talk to us in the field," said Li. This led to the well-known picture of Xi smiling with the group of women from the Li ethnic group.
That hat now hangs on the wall of Li's sitting room as a token of blessing.
Li and her husband now live a much easier life, with an annual income of more than 60,000 (,000) yuan from growing roses in the valley, which provides 50 million cut roses for the domestic market during the winter season.
This has led to growth in the tourist trade.
"We will soon recoup our investments of 2 million yuan. Room occupancy has never been a big concern since we started the family inn two years ago, because we have such a beautiful environment, with sweet rose gardens and a tropical rain forest park around us, and egrets dancing gracefully in the nearby wetlands," said Tan Zhongxian, owner of one of the 14 family inns in Bohou, a village of 925 households of the Li people where the rose valley is located.
About 1 kilometer from Yalong Bay－a popular national resort district where a dozen international five-star hotels neighbor each other－the fragrant rose valley has unfolded further romance for Sanya and yielded new fortune over the past four years. Villagers who used to make a living by growing rice, fishing and breeding poultry or by working outside as migrants now have upgraded living conditions and incomes and the local ecological and farming systems have improved.
"President Xi was keenly interested in our blossoming rose plants grown in the once alkaline soil and spoke highly of our business model," said Yang Ying, board chairwoman of the Hainan Rose Valley Industry Development Co Ltd, developer of the rose valley.