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A not-so-golden week

Ananth Krishnan
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A Chinese Holiday the way no one wanted it.

A brief connect at the station...Photo: AFP
A brief connect at the station...Photo: AFP

What happens when half a billion people decide to go on holiday at the same time? This is what unfolds every first week of October, known in China as the “Golden Week” — a week-long holiday that the government instituted to mark National Day (and, some economists say, stimulate spending). The result, every year, is seven days of travel chaos that sees China’s road and rail networks stretched to the limit.

This year, the travel week was especially frenzied; the holiday was extended to nine days with the Lunar Mid-Autumn festival falling a day before “Golden Week” began, encouraging more people to go on vacation. The numbers this year were staggering. A record 80 million people travelled by road on every day of the eight-day holiday.

The railway networks carried nine million people on the first day of the week. The commuting was not entirely harmonious: the government recorded 68,400 traffic accidents that killed close to 800 people. With everyone taking off, the streets of Beijing were unusually peaceful. Less so its tourist sites: 182,000 people crammed themselves into the Forbidden City on October 2.

At the Huashan mountain in Shaanxi, a popular destination, tens of thousands were left stranded and demanded refunds, even sparking a riot, after authorities puzzlingly appeared unprepared for the crowds. The only silver lining was a stimulus for the economy: tourism income grew a quarter from last year to US$ 278 million.

“In spite of all the vows and preparations for the past eight hectic days, there were few signs of improvement in the holiday experience,” the China Daily lamented, while many bloggers decided after their travel travails that next year, they would simply stay put at home.

Ananth Krishnan


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