This is the first time in three years that I haven’t been in china to experience the National Holiday celebrations. 1st October is a national holiday across China and most people have a week off work. In the week or so leading up to the 1st you will see workers hanging flags from lampposts, street signs, on walls and basically anywhere they can get one attached. Last year while on the way to airport I decided to count them… that got boring very quickly. I think I managed around 200 in the space of 5 minutes.
Many people will take the time to go back to visit their families in their hometowns to spend quality time with them, as it is then a long stretch until the next holiday. Other people like to travel and when I say other people I mean millions of people like to travel. Having one of the largest populations in the world, you can only imagine how crowded the airports, bus and train stations become, at times it is literally a sea of people.
In 2014 I headed down to Xiamen in the Fujian province. My friend and I were late in getting train tickets, so we had seated tickets for the way there but not for the return journey. Which meant a very long 6-7 hour journey back to Hangzhou from Xiamen.
Xiamen is on the coast and as the weather is still fairy nice in October it proved to be a popular destination. Gulangyu island is the most popular spot for tourists and it was an absolute nightmare to get around. It is a small island with tiny cobbled streets and each and every one was crammed full of people. There are quite a few food streets and they were pretty much impassable, so no lunch for us on the island!
When it came to 2015 I was determined to leave the country and spend my time wisely, however after an expensive summer, I didn’t really have the money to go anywhere and was waiting for my first pay check to come in. I headed down the West Lake in Hangzhou and was greeted by thousands of people, blocking the streets and hogging all the space on the bus. And with that I went home found the cheapest flight I could out of china and I ended up going to Hanoi in Vietnam.
Granted getting to the airport in Shanghai was an absolute nightmare, which took me over 4 hours (its only an hours train ride from Hangzhou to Shanghai), but I was happy to be in a new country and in a new city even if only for a few days.
Hanoi was a great city to visit and I feel like I walked around the whole thing! I visited temples, famous lakes and most importantly sampled the local food which is also my favourite thing to do on a trip. Even though the city was quite busy, I knew that it was much quieter in comparison to the packed streets of China. This was my first trip to Vietnam and it had left me wanting to see more.
Finally in 2016 I was back in China celebrating the holiday in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Unfortunately we only had a few days off school because of the G20 meeting schools had started the term later in the year, so they needed to claw back the time. I really wanted to visit Hong Kong, but my boyfriend wasn’t keen on going as it was more expensive, so the pair of us and a mutual friend headed off to Guangzhou. The city was nice and I was shocked at how quiet and calm the streets were. For the three days we were there the only time we had seen a large gathering of people was at the Canton Tower, where we queued for around 2.5 hours to get up to the top.
I am sad that I cannot take part in the celebrations this year, and especially that I don’t have a week off work. After being in china for nearly four years I quickly learnt how passionate and patriotic Chinese people are. To outsiders it may seem a strange place where their customs are “unusual” or the place that’s in Asia and you’re not really sure who the leader is or the place where everything is made! To me it is a diverse, multicultural and elegant country, but I realise that I have been lucky enough to be welcomed into not only the country but into its people’s lives and homes. I feel truly blessed to have spent so long in the country and to learn about its ways. Now that I have been home for 12 weeks I am missing it and I have a craving for Chinese food that I just can’t fix here. Thank you China for having me and enjoy your National Day!