Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Chinese New Year Madness

If you are familiar with Chinese New Year you know the insane amount of people on the road during this time of the year. I think for anyone it is hard to imagine how many people really are on the road traveling back to their home towns. Even after five years it is hard for me to picture the whole thing. Essentially everything is being influenced by Chinese New Year here: 

ATMs: It is custom that parents and married couples will hand out money in little red enveloped to their friends and family. Besides the amount of money that is in the envelope also the actual money itself is incredibly symbolic: It has to be new. So people have been flooding ATMs here in the city taking out a lot of cash, which has quite frankly caused quite the shortage of money. I went to 8 different ATMs on Saturday and none of them had any cash! 

Metro: People take the metro with a lot of bags on them, minimizing the space in the metro that is available for people. Commuting here in Guangzhou is based on a very fine line that is separating complete chaos from barely functioning. Last week one of the escalators was broken at the train station I have to transfer at. People were pushing and crowding around the one escalator that was working, essentially blocking everything else. It was quite frightening how much pushing and running was going on. 

UPDATE: So I actually wrote this a couple days ago, but I wanted to see how the situation continues to worsen as spring festival approaches and I was not disappointed. China is experiencing some really cold weather, which caused a lot of trains to delay at the main train station I usually transfer the metro at here in Guangzhou. The station was shut down for metro users, because more than 10'000 people were stranded there on Monday night. The situation just got worse and now this news update: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/02/at-least-100000-chinese-new-year-travellers-stuck-at-railway-station
The sheer amount of humans there is absolutely unimaginable

Ticket Prices: The prices for everything that has to do with traveling is soaring at the moment and there are a lot of people selling fake travel tickets online. One of my colleagues had to call the police because he bought a fake ticket. 

... and there are many more that I can't think of right now. 

I was trying to figure out what I should do during my time off and how I could avoid some of the crowds for spring festival. It is impossible to avoid the crowds, but you can definitely minimize the stress level. So I looked at a map of China and was trying to find the last place I would ever go to: Ningxia Province. And rest assured the tickets were quite cheap! I will fly to Ningxia next week and then take the train from Yinchuan to Inner Mongolia where I will meet a friend from there. I am super excited and am planning packing all the warm clothing I can possibly find since it is -20 degrees in Inner Mongolia. 

I wish everyone a great Chinese New Year and for everyone to be patient ....