Today marks the beginning of the busiest travel season in China: from January 21 to February 27, China’s skies, roads, and rails will be inundated as an expected 640 million people, from every corner of the country, go on the move. What destinations could possibly be so compelling as to temporarily shift more than 9% of the world’s entire population? Home, of course.
The impetus is the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival (chun jie). Far and away the most important festival on the Chinese calendar, the Spring Festival has always been a traditional time of homecoming and renewal. As such, this deluge occurs every winter, but the Ministry of Transport in China has predicted that this year’s will be the worst yet. One explanation is that many Chinese, in addition to returning home for the holidays, will also take advantage of the time off for domestic and international tourism.
With so many people competing for tickets, the rush has resulted in some amusing local news items. One story details the rising trade in fake student IDs as travelers get more innovative in their search for a cheap ticket home. A well-humored Beijing man named Chi Dongting, frustrated with long wait times at railway offices in freezing temperatures, successfully used a stylishly-dressed mannequin to hold his place in line – while he huddled in his car for warmth.
Far from being intimidated by the crowds, AsiaTravel believes there are some not-so-packed spots in China that truly shine during the holiday period. Yunnan province is a popular destination with our clients this time of year for a variety of reasons; the subtropical climate of verdant Xishuangbanna is an obvious draw, while up north the old cities of Dali and Lijiang take on a more peaceful personality with high season still months away.
And if you own a good jacket, Tibet awaits. With many annual pilgrimages underway, February represents an ideal opportunity to see local Tibetans in their colorful traditional dress – and there’s plenty of yak butter tea to keep you warm!
We always promote going off-the-beaten-path for travel in China; but with the beaten path about to fill up with home-bound travelers and domestic vacationers, there’s perhaps no better time to do so than during the Spring Festival.
Image: Birmingham Post