Against the backdrop of a clear blue sky and the dramatic shades of green unveiled by the tropical rain forest down below, a much-inlove pair is posing for their pre-wedding shoot in the sylvan surroundings of the Yalong Bay Forest Park in Sanya, also referred to as the Hawaii of China. Despite trying hard not to disturb them, we, upon catching their eye, do give them a cheerful wave. The two blush, and smile back, and with the ice now broken, do a special pose for us as well.But our guide George Jin, who has brought us to this southernmost Chinese city that nestles on Hainan Island, has more pressing matters at hand. Hope you have no palpitation problems? Or fear of heights? He is happy when we shake our heads and, overcoming our apprehensions, step onto the long wooden bridge that stretches from one mountain-top to the other. After the first few hesitant steps, clutching onto the thick ropes that support the bridge, we are confident enough to move ahead savouring the bounties of nature and laughing loudly when the bridge moves and shakes to the diktats of the tropical breeze.Another fun-filled experience lies in wait on the 400-metre long glassor the sky walk. And it’s mandatoryto go over it with special shoecovers on to avoid any mishapslest your footwear be slippery.Watching a group of youngsters break into an impromptu dance, we can’t help but agree that Sanya packs in quite a punch with offerings that are diverse and eclectic.advertisementGLAM & GLITZTaking us back in time, George mentions that hundreds of years ago, this little fishing village was referred to as the End of the Earth’. And those committing grave crimes were banished to Sanya by the emperors in Mainland China. That was then, however, even till recently nobody wanted to come here, he adds. But now, with judicious planning, Sanya has become the go-to place not just for vacationers but also for business people and this is evident as we zip past a skyline that boasts many artistic corporate buildings and luxury hotel chains from MGM to Phoenix, they are all here.Events such as Miss World have also put Saiyaan (that’s how the locals pronounce the name of their city) on the world map, bringing this beach resort to the attention of well-heeled international travellers. We are quick to inform George that it was here that our Femina Miss India Manushi Chillar had won the coveted crown in 2017.SEEKING BLESSINGSAll set to check out Sanya’s myriad delights, we visit the sprawling Nanshan Temple complex that is believed to have been built on an artificially created island. As devotees carry on with their evening prayers inside the temple that was built in 1988 to commemorate 2,000 years of Buddhism in China, our attention goes to a tall white statue that seems to emerge out of the South China Sea waters.This is the 108-metre high statue of Bodhisattva Guanyin that was completed in 2005. Its three faces, one facing inland and the other two looking out towards the sea, are believed to be showering blessings not just upon China, but also on the world outside.GAME OF STONESReady for some water-sports, we’re seated in a ferry that takes us towards the Wuzhizhou Island in the Haitang Bay that lies towards the north of Sanya. How about a ride around the island? suggests George. And soon we’re seated in battery-operated carts and treated to spectacular views as the serpentine road goes past rocky mountainous terrain.What makes Wuzhizhou particularly attractive are the number of activities such as parasailing, jetskiing, snorkelling and bananaboat rides on offer. Sitting in the balcony of a restaurant and sipping a drink aptly named to go with the place Bikini Juice’ together with some Arctic orangeflavoured Soda, we watch selfietakers clicking snaps against the backdrop of what seems to us to be a grass installation of a hand mudra, but for the local people is a sign for the three magical words, I love you’. Since when has language been a barrier in love? laughs George as we wonder about watching a stage show in the Mandarin language. But we allow him to shepherd us towards the Sanya Romance Park for what is touted to be an amazing production that stages tales of love from Chinese history. No sooner than we’re seated, epic sets, acrobatics, flying trapezes, water shows with even some flyboarding thrown in and mermaids’ who, to the sounds of the magical song Scarborough Fair’ wave out to you from their water base overhead, have us enthralled.advertisementBOLLYWOOD CONNECTA short walk down the pier at Sanya Bay, we step into a cruise liner. We are treated to a show that traces the journey of the silk route that also touched parts of Malaysia, India, and South Africa. And much to the delight of us Indian visitors, our country’s connection gets highlighted when the dancers put up a graceful rendition to the Bollywood number Tu ban jaa meraLater, enjoying the cool tropical breeze, we sail over the South China Sea waters, watching the beautifully-lit high rises in the Sanya Bay area.
Dan Cohen AUTHOR Despite sizable differences between two competing versions of the annual defense policy bill, the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday expressed confidence they would find a middle ground, following the initial meeting of the conference committee.Still, the lawmakers did not shy away from the major difference they will need to reconcile — an $18 billion discrepancy between the two fiscal 2017 defense authorization bills.The House version uses $18 billion from DOD’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account to fund base budget items not requested by the Obama administration. As a result, funding for overseas operations would run out by the end of April, forcing the next administration to request supplemental funding. The Senate version does not rely on the OCO account, but Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.) has repeatedly said the military needs more funding to restore shortfalls in readiness.“I didn’t see a major stumbling block, except the issues of sequestration, which we have not found a way through yet, but we have just begun,” McCain said, reported Defense News.“I don’t know the way through it now, but we always seem to get through it,” McCain said after the press conference, which featured his House counterpart and the two committees’ senior Democrats.But with increased demands on the military in Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan, the need to find a way around the statutory limit on defense spending has only become more urgent, he said. “All of those cost money, and the administration has not come over with an additional funding request for those, much less the $18 billion issue that we’re also facing,” McCain said.Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member on House Armed Services, echoed McCain’s concern about funding.“There is that need, there isn’t the money, and each of the four committees has taken a different swing at that, and the White House as well,” Smith said, referring to the two chambers’ appropriations and Armed Services committees. “Figuring out the money is the most important part of our negotiations,” he said.
Defense appropriators can be expected to adhere closely to the funding levels set out in the defense authorization bill in crafting the fiscal 2018 spending bill, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters Wednesday. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee also said that DOD should not anticipate any additional funds in FY 2018 and 2019 beyond the higher topline figures agreed to as part of last month’s budget deal, reports CQ. “I believe there is an absolute commitment to sticking to the budget agreement: 700 [billion dollars] this year, 716 [billion dollars] next year, which means no lower, no higher,” Thornberry said. “So the idea that, if there are deficiencies [for a particular account], you just add to the topline, I don’t think that will happen.”The budget agreement allocates a total of $700 billion for national defense programs in FY 2018 and $716 billion in FY 2019. Dan Cohen AUTHOR