Actually, no. Lets not. Travelling anywhere during Chinese New Year is hell. Unless you’re travelling anywhere outside of China. Somewhere way outside, like Africa or Scotland. Then it might be ok. But anywhere actually in the country or where a lot of Chinese might be, like Phuket or Jakarta, then no, don’t leave the house.
Chinese New Year is soon upon us and the powers that be will very kindly give us all seven days leave from work. Seven days leave but we have to work the weekend before – thanks for that. Seven days, but the entire country also have seven days and so it turns into insanely crowded hell.
I have travelled on two separate occasions during Chinese New Year. The first was to Guilin and Yangshuo and the second was to Xiamen. Xiamen wasn’t too bad as I spent most of it in my mate’s house on Gulangyu Island. But Guilin/Yangshuo was horrible. Not horrible because of the place, horrible because there were about 5 million people within spitting distance of me all the time.
The first mistake we made was going to Guilin by train. It took about 24 hours and the train was packed. Every carriage, all the corridors, every available bit of space had people there. There were four of us and we had a hard sleeper sharing with two Chinese who insisted on letting us know what time it was to eat, when to sleep, when to get up, have a piss, etc etc. They advised us to not drink alcohol but we did that for the entire duration of the train journey. There was nothing else to do.
Every time we needed to go to the toilet it took at least 25 minutes getting through the crowds packed in the corridor. Then you had to wait for the fifteen people in the toilet that were using it for sleeping purposes or washing clothes. By the time I got back to my cabin I needed to piss again. Thank god for thick denim jeans.
Of course when we got to Guilin we then had to get on a bus to Yangshuo, that was packed to the rafters. I think there were people on the roof. And when we got to Yangshuo we had to find a hotel as we hadn’t had the foresight to book one before leaving. We ended up in one room with two twin beds and as there were four of us we took it in turn sleeping on the floor.
Yes, we could have flown to Guilin. Yes, we should have booked a hotel before leaving. But nothing could be done about the living hell we were about to experience known as West Street.
West Street is just one long street full of tourist traps disguised as coffee shops and restaurants. When we were there it was also full of Chinese people wandering down the street looking in the windows of the coffee shops and restaurants. Kind of like a laowai zoo. People would stop us and take our picture, others would just point and laugh or shout ‘laowai’.
We had four days of this. On the train back I stared into space for 24 hours while my fellow passengers threw rubbish out the windows.
Like I said earlier, Xiamen was a different deal altogether. One, I was on an island. Two, I was in my mate’s house and most importantly…. Three, we had tons of booze. I remember going on the ferry back to the mainland and I wondered how the boat stayed afloat. We were standing literally shoulder to shoulder.
So in terms of going anywhere for Chinese New Year I just say no. This year I don’t even plan on leaving the house. I’ll go to City Shop and stock up on provisions, stay in front of the tv for ten days and watch online American soap operas.