Today’s my first day back at work after my two-week Chinese New Year break. I had a great time traveling but I’m also happy to let everything come back to “normal”. Usually, I am a big fan of different cultural festivities and I also like Chinese New Year. When I was in Guangzhou during my first Chinese New Year, it was great: beautiful decorations, lanterns, a flower fair an everything welcomed the year of the snake as glamorous as possible.
This year, however, I experienced the other side of the new year. It’s that time of the year when an entire country goes on holiday or back to their hometowns to visit family – or both. As my fellow blogger friend Becky says:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: being in China for Chinese New years (more aptly named Spring Festival) is a nightmare. It’s the largest human migration and more than a billion people travel to see their family. Of course they can’t all travel on one day, so there is actually a two-week migration period in which it sucks to even travel in your own city. –
I noticed masses of people starting to “move” in the second week of February. I take the metro to go to work and one of the stops if the central train stations which was the most popular stop during that period of time. The subway was packed with heavy suitcases and boxes of new year’s gifts from and for family members. I was OK with it as long as nobody bothered me. And it was fine.
Since I would leave China soon, I made the decision to travel during Chinese New Year – in China. I visited Qingdao, Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou in that order from February 13 – 24. Since it’s the holiday weekend and many Chinese tend to make time for traveling as well, I expected crowds. However, in my first two destinations, Qingdao and Nanjing, crowds were quite rare. But in Suzhou and especially Hangzhou, which seems to be a hot spot during Chinese New Year, it got intense.
I wouldn’t say traveling during Chinese New Year was a generally bad idea. I had a wonderful trip nevertheless but had outbursts of both laughter and hatred wandering through all this chaos. What especially got to me was that I barely spotted other foreigners out sightseeing and was “left like prey” to hundreds or even thousands of Chinese who traveled to the big cities from the country and who had never seen a foreigner before. I’m used to staring but what happened during the New Year was just too much and on a much larger scale. No thank you.
The thing that especially bothered me were pretty nasty comments and stares of “disgust” I got from some people. One man made a comment while I was checking into my new hotel and I couldn’t find my most recent immigration stamp in my passport right away. He got very impatient since he also wanted to get a room and made a comment in Chinese which I obviously understood: “Just let me check in first, this foreigner clearly doesn’t have a clue about this stuff.”
Another incident that was quite shocking was when a little boy spotted me pass by in Hangzhou among the crowds of other tourists and basically turned away from me in pure disgust saying “Ewww.” I never had another person look at me that way and that didn’t give me a nice feeling at all. I’m a foreigner, yes, but, hello, I’m not DISGUSTING?!
With that said, I am happy to be back in Changsha and being able to relax and be somewhat “normal” again.
How did you spend Chinese New Year’s?