China’s Golden Week – which runs from October 1st to October 7th every year – is a national holiday in both senses of the word. Not only does it mark the founding of Communist China – 66 years old this year – it also gives the majority of its 1.38 billion people a week off to see the nation’s sights.
This means that during a seven day period many Chinese are taking their big holiday for the year.
Some go overseas but the vast majority of them stay in China, making for chaos on the roads, insane crowds at popular tourist sites and, in some cases, fatal accidents. This year, shortly before a record 750 million Chinese embarked on domestic trips, the National Tourism Administration issued a report calling for provinces to stagger their holidays so that demand would not be so intense.
“The current system causes a slew of negative effects that require urgent attention,” it said, citing environmental damage, poor consumer experience, and market distortion.“More and more people are unhappy with the current system.”
Certainly judging by news reports and weibo comments from around China in recent days many – including those who manage tourist sites — would welcome the change.
At the Huaqing Hot Springs in Shaanxi the authorities tried and failed to stop crowds fondling a naked statue of Yang Guifei – an imperial consort from the Tang Dynasty. While a sign placed at the base of the marble sculpture reads “Please take photos in a civilised manner”, many of the male visitors couldn’t resist climbing the plinth and cupping a breast or two.
Meanwhile in Jiuzhaiguo, a national park on the border of Sichuan, the local government had to hire a team of 300 cleaners to pick up the 15 tonnes of rubbish the crowds left every day. Local media said the detritus included a large number of mobile phones and umbrellas that were dropped in the park’s famous lakes as visitors jostled over crowded bridges.
Sanitation also became an issue over the holidays with some sites forced to convert men’s bathrooms into women’s – leading men to pee outside. To keep things clean and orderly the Forbidden City in Beijing – one of the country’s top destinations – swapped out its extensive floral displays for 445 portable toilets.
In the wake of the deadly crush on the Bund in Shanghai (during New Year’s celebrations) many tourist spots introduced new caps on visitors. However, limiting visitor numbers only goes so far.
The most terrifying tale from the holidays came on Tuesday when a newly-opened glass bridge in Henan began cracking under the feet of the people crossing the 1,000-metre deep gorge. Authorities said the damage was caused by a woman dropping her steel thermos cup on the pane and reassured people by saying there were two other layers of glass underneath it.
Netizens however were unconvinced. “A drinking cup did this? How big was that cup?” asked one. “I bet they rushed to get the bridge open for the holidays and didn’t do the relevant safety checks,” wrote another.
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