China Culture

Why you shouldn’t go out on Major Chinese Holidays

October 3, 2017
Chinese holiday crowd

Crowd during the National Day of the People’s Republic of China

Today marks the end of the three-day celebration of China’s National Day. Five days if you would consider the preceding weekend. Which reminds me of the long weekends I had back in the days when I had to endure an intense crowd to reach my far-off destination.

For work reasons, I lived in Kunshan, China from 2006 to 2009. Kunshan is a city within Suzhou in the southeastern part of Jiangsu Province. At the time, my idea of travel is a day trip within or outside the city. Day trips mean there were no hotels involved. I had to leave home early in the morning and come back late at night.

On long holidays, however, we would go as far as Hangzhou.

It was said that if every permanent resident of Kunshan will be out on the streets at the same time, there will be at least 700 persons standing per square-kilometer of land. This rough estimation excludes the foreigners and temporary residents. Which wasn’t actually true but at the rate high-rise residential buildings are being constructed in China, we can see this happening very soon.

Labor Day crowd at the Shanghai Oceanarium

During the Labor Day in May 2008, a friend and I left Kunshan to visit our friend in Hangzhou. However, the tickets we bought earlier had us several hours to spend in Shanghai. We went to the Shanghai Oceanarium and thought it was one of the worst decisions we made during our travels. The place was filled to the brim.

Shanghai Oceanarium has two huge aquarium tunnels where people could pass through while gawking at the marine creatures. I was both amazed and annoyed. Amazed because I’ve always loved visiting aquarium centers and the varieties of marine species were so diverse. Plus there were penguins. Annoyed because the crowd was so thick, it outshined the amazing creatures at the exhibits.

Upon entering the first tunnel, you wouldn’t even have to take a single step because you’ll be automatically pushed forward by the crowd behind you. If you want to take a decent picture, you must set your camera to the fastest shutter setting (use multiple running shots if possible) because you can’t pause to even click the shutter button without being pushed (a perfect reason for explaining why you have 95% of all your photos blurred).

Don’t even allow yourself to faint or fall down because you’d definitely get flattened like a pizza dough. The arrival of the crowd was seemingly endless that if you would fall down during the opening, your body will only be noticed during closing.

At the time, Shanghai Oceanarium held the title for having the World’s Longest Underwater Viewing Tunnel at 155 meters. It was the second tunnel from the main entrance and had a travelator. If you’re lucky enough to get past the first tunnel, the travelator will remind you how unimportant it was as you already had meed moving at the slightest effort.

The case of mutilple connecting and overlapping train tickets

Trains are also packed like cans of sardines during long weekends and major holidays. Especially on the slower and older models, people could be standing all throughout their trips.

Once upon boarding the train on our way to Hangzhou, we were surprised to find out that two middle-aged men already occupying our seats. When we compared theirs and our tickets, we realized they were only supposed to take those seats in Hangzhou East Railway Station. It was the station was we would be getting off.

It turned out that during long holidays, people who were heading to far-off destinations would usually buy multiple connecting tickets. They’d take whatever tickets are available until they arrive at their intended destination.

A person going to Beijing from Shanghai may buy three or more trains tickets if direct train tickets are no longer available. For instance, Shanghai to Hangzhou, Hangzhou to Nanjing, and Nanjing to Beijing. Sometimes they would even buy overlapping tickets just if connecting tickets are not available. For example Shanghai to Nanjing and Hangzhou to Beijing.

People could be rude and lines may not exist

As what an expat living in China once wrote on a forum, “Don’t try to wait in line. Lines don’t exist. Throw elbows and mix it up.”

Once when it was my time to be served at a ticketing booth in Kunshan, a middle-aged woman suddenly elbowed me and went ahead to the service window. The way she leered at me suggested that she was on the line first when clearly, she just arrived. Or perhaps waiting patiently for my turn so she could do her scene.

I also had several encounters when people would pretend to be just asking questions at the ticketing booth only to find out soon that the person was already paying for his tickets. Sneaky bastards.

Also, on our way to Hangzhou, there was a small dining table in front of our seats inside the train. It was about 2 feet long and a foot wide. Left-over foods and chestnut shells were scattered all over and I had to clean it out as soon as we got seated. However, there was this woman sharing that same table with us eating boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, and other edibles from her bag. My companion’s temper was building slowly heating up each time the woman would crack a sunflower seed and spit its empty shells in the front table. As if seeing me wipe the table in front of her was not enough to solicit some courtesy.

We just sarcastically assumed that the woman was so rich for her to feel like owning the whole train. And I must say, China is a haven for rich people because the other man feasting on two plump tomatoes beside her had been spitting peels and seeds all the same.

But at the end of the day, having a better understanding of all the cultural differences makes the traveling in China, or everywhere else, a bit easier.

Ready to visit China? These China travel tips will help you make your visit in this country more bearable.

Chinese crowd on major Chinese holidays
Chinese crowd on major Chinese holidays

  • Reply
    Neha T
    October 4, 2017 at 1:02 AM

    Nicely described the facts.. Though I’m writing too on festival but I visit less crowded options to enjoy more and avoid crowds

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 4, 2017 at 12:18 PM

      I’m seeking the less crowded options, too, recently. And here is Saudi Arabia, I found out that the best time to travel is between breakfast and lunch. The crowd will usually storm the sites after the afternoon prayer, around 2:00 PM.

  • Reply
    October 4, 2017 at 2:54 AM

    This was really interesting to read. I love learning about what I should and shouldn’t do when visiting certain places.

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 4, 2017 at 12:18 PM

      Considering we are the guest, it’s only best that we comply with their rules. Culture, that is.

  • Reply
    Alex BetterTogether
    October 4, 2017 at 5:43 AM

    Interesting to read although I think a lot of the things you pointed out are probably cultural differences as opposed to rudeness 🙂

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 4, 2017 at 12:14 PM

      Definitely agree. I added the last line with a link to a previous post on culture.

  • Reply
    Lexi Mary
    October 4, 2017 at 8:15 AM

    I agree on Alex, there’s so much cultural difference especially SE Asia and the rest of Asian countries. If you’ll go to northern EU the ambiance its more colder than its weather 🙂

  • Reply
    Tyra Skinner
    October 4, 2017 at 9:45 AM

    This year is my first year experiencing National Day in China. It was a bit crowded, but it was quite fun to see them so excited about their holiday! Although it can be a pain to travel, once you know things work, it’s easy to maneuver around.

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 4, 2017 at 12:16 PM

      Just don’t let the crowd ruin the experience and you’ll be good.

  • Reply
    October 4, 2017 at 12:48 PM

    This is a very special and busy time for the Chinese community. No wonder everyone’s busy celebrating the special time and taking time off to do their thing. Enjoy the crowd 😉 Go people-watching!

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 6, 2017 at 10:45 PM

      Yes, people watching is the way to go. Enjoy seeing their activities from a distant.

  • Reply
    Silver Surfer
    October 4, 2017 at 3:24 PM

    As some previous comments have said, cultures are different. I think I would need a good understanding of Chinese culture.

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 6, 2017 at 10:46 PM

      We are all different. That we all have to understand for us to get along really well.

  • Reply
    Katie @ CreativeTravelGuide
    October 4, 2017 at 5:52 PM

    As someone currently experiencing Golden Week in China, I couldn’t agree more!

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 6, 2017 at 10:44 PM

      So true! The only thing we can do is have a lot of patience and be reminded that it’s their country (and their culture) and not ours.

  • Reply
    Digital Travel Guru
    October 5, 2017 at 4:54 AM

    Really enjoyed reading this post – especially that SE Asia is may fav place to explore.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2017 at 3:30 PM

    I guess it’s the same with my home country, the Philippines. The country has a huge population problem, and during long weekends or holidays, attractions near Manila are just filled to the brim with people and it’s difficult to get in or out of the city due to traffic and fully booked buses. Although the people aren’t as rude as you mentioned, many still lack discipline. What we normally did is to go for off-beaten locations or somewhere really far away to get away from the crowd.

    • Reply
      Noel Cabacungan
      October 6, 2017 at 10:47 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. Sometimes it’s just best to stay at home. ^_^

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