This story will take you back to 2008, but I’m pretty sure that the situation would not have changed much, if it took place in the present. During that year, my husband and I worked on a project in Beijing. We were really busy most of the time, as we were on a tight schedule, working most of the weekends as well, so when October holidays came up we had to take our chance to see as many sights in and around Beijing as possible. The only problem was – millions of Chinese had a similar idea.
Usually, people in China do not get to take holiday leaves outside the state holidays. Two of the longest vacation periods are October holidays and Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Inland tourism is extremely popular, people visiting different provinces and landmarks, and Beijing, of course, is one of the main destinations – unsurprisingly so, as it has so much on offer.
I’ve already wrote about our visit to the Summer Palace, summer residence of emperors. It’s breathtaking and majestic, but walking around its grounds in a river of other tourists was something we had to adjust to. You can read more about that trip here.
Our visit to the Great Wall of China proved to be similar – trying to enjoy great scenery while navigating the crowd. After we woke up to the usual ‘bright’ sunrise in Beijing, we went to the section nearest to the city. I heard that it’s not the most impressive one, but as we tried to fit a lot of sightseeing in a couple of days, that was our best choice. The wall was a beautiful sight in any case, the way it snaked its way across the hills. When we stood on top of it, it was hard to imagine that all of this was built centuries ago (well, it underwent a major renovation, so a lot of it was built quite recently, but you know what I mean).
The main downside was that to reach one of the top towers, you had to climb steep steps together with hundreds of people, packed so close together, that you really had no choice of whether you stood or walked – you were carried by the crowd. I didn’t even want to think, what could’ve happened, if anybody fell down on those steps. During our time in China, we had to get used to the fact that anywhere you went you would see a lot of people, a busy supermarket in Europe is nothing in comparison to a busy supermarket in Beijing. I remember, when we just moved from Shanghai to Moscow (a city which is famed for its crowds and traffic jams), I was shocked by the width of personal space you had, something that was a luxury on busy streets back in China. However, going sightseeing during October holidays took crowd surfing to a whole new level.
Of course, if you have a choice of visiting Chinese landmarks during the state holidays or not at all, by all means go there! It’s still completely worth it. Otherwise, you could choose some quieter dates for your travel.