Notes From A Small Island.
Sanya, Hainan, China.
“I’ve worked my way up from nothing to a state of supreme poverty.” Groucho Marx
Over the weekend there were rich folk out at Sanya airport thinking seriously about buying a private airbus, luxury yachts were coming and going from the pontoon at Times Coast and a man walked into a kiosk at Hainan Rendezvous and put down a straight nine million yuan on a Rolls Royce Phantom.
The doormen at Hainan Rendezvous looked sniffily at Mario and me. “Where are your passes?”
We didn’t have any, but it’s a small island. We both had friends inside who could get us in.
The show, an exhibition of supertoys for the super rich, was old European money meets new Chinese money, and they look very different. Old European money is confident, tall and angular, impeccably dressed and never overweight.
Chinese money is more shambolic but every bit as confident. Large Chinese families took up residence on the yachts and talked loudly about the virtues of a yacht as opposed to, say, a fourth apartment. Granny sat motionless in the air-conditioned cabin, hands in her lap.
Mario and I were neither old money nor new, but we spent the day pretending to be press.
We were awed by the Ferraris, the Jaguars, the cigarette boats, the helicopters and the private jets, but experienced a strange sense of elation in the property section.
“Film me,” said Mario sidling up to a sales girl for the Fortune Bay Paradise development in Sanya Bay. The development is on an unpromising section of the Sanya Bay beach, where the sea is the colour of milky coffee. “OK, what’s the price now at the Fortune Bay Paradise?”
“Forty-six thousand yuan per square metre,” said the salesgirl quietly.
“Now do this one,” said Mario, three stands along at the Light Waterfront development in Penang. “OK, here we have a beautiful seafront property in Penang, Malaysia, and how much is it?”
“Twelve thousand renminbi per square metre,” said the salesman.
I could barely restrain a laugh.
“We’d like to push the price up,” added the salesman, half-joking, “but we have to sell to the locals too and they wouldn’t like it.”
I was also much taken with the idea of helicopter golf on a Swiss glacier. Apparently it’s quite the thing among Chinese billionaires. “Presumably, you don’t use white balls?” I asked with a schoolboy snigger that wasn’t returned.
Later on, we hustled a ride on a beautiful Leopard Catamaran, and much of the video footage at the top of this page was shot during that trip. Thanks to Yvan Eymieu for letting us on. His cat is for sale, by the way, so if you have a spare $US750,000 (or near offer) knocking around, be sure to drop him a line.
You also get a sneaky look at The Bounceologist’s family in this video and my exuberant young son.