First off, I must apologize for my one week hiatus from the interweb. Dave and I were fortunate enough to visit beautiful Guanxi Province as well as take a short trip to Xiamen for China’s National Holiday. As much as I’d love to sit down and write for the next 4 hours about this trip, I teach at 8:00am tomorrow morning, so I’ve decided to break this post up into 3 parts. Before I can get to the details of our wonderful adventures, I must explain what it is like to live those adventures during this Golden Week of Travel!
Holidays in China are fantastic! Instead of getting several long weekends throughout the year, the Chinese get 3 weeks off, one week at a time. The first holiday of the year is Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year. I am fortunate enough to have 2 weeks off for this holiday, because it lands right between semesters at Interlingua. Most places have one week off and this is a major family holiday in China; similar to Christmas for North Americans. Everyone travels to their hometowns to spend time with their families, drink tea, and enjoy many other traditions. By the time the holiday is over, everyone has gone up a belt size, and is ready to rid themselves of their families once more…or at least until the next holiday (boy, does that sound familiar!!).
The second Chinese holiday is in May, and it’s similar to our Labour Day. Once more, Chinese citizens have a week off to travel home, or see a new part of the country. As I mentioned in my last post, China is so diverse in climate, geography and tradition, that I feel I could visit a new city every holiday for the next decade and never come close to seeing all I want to see.
The third holiday is the one that we just celebrated: Chinese National Day. This one, like Labour Day, is a chance for people to travel and see the sights; a much needed break from months without a break.
While it is wonderful that we have 3 long holidays in China, it is unfortunate that everyone else also has that same holiday time. The result: 1.3 billion people, visiting a select few cities where all the ‘cool’ things are. Some of the teachers at Interlingua were brave enough to go to Xi’an this holiday (the home of the Terracotta Warriors), but Dave and I decided to visit some of the less popular destinations: Guangxi Province and Xiamen Island (where I spent a year teaching EAL in 2005/2006).
Now, I realize it may be difficult for you to imagine the number of people we were travelling with during this holiday, so I will attempt to describe it through comparison. We spent one day of our holidays on Gulang Yu, an Island located off the coast of Xiamen. The island has an area of approximately 2km square (about the size of a small town in Southern Manitoba), and is home to roughly 20,000 people. During the national holiday, however, the population of the island jumps to roughly 100,000 people. If you think that Canada day in Osbourne Village is a nuthouse, you should try National day in China for some comparison!!
Luckily, China knows how to handle crowds. Other than a short delay for one of our flights (air traffic was so clogged up that we had to wait a half hour before taking off from Guilin), the country continued to run rather smoothly. Planes load quickly here, because people know that if they don’t move quickly, they will likely be moved out of the way by the line up of people coming up behind them. China has learned to stand in line ups (something I rarely experienced in Xiamen 8 years ago), but those lines move quickly, because China is all about efficiency. We actually timed the unloading and reloading of a ferry going to Gulang Island. From beginning to end, it took 6 minutes to unload all 850 passengers from this two story ferry, and then load 850 back onto it.
China is incredible for so many reasons, but being a part of that 6 minute ferry experience has got to be near the top of the list of crazy things I’ve seen here!
Next I’ll be writing about my amazing stay in Guangxi Province! Stay tuned because I have some incredible pictures and fantastic stories!!