National Day and Golden Week.

Do you know whose birthday is coming up on October 1st? That’s right, the world’s most populated country is celebrating the 67th year of its founding. This event is commemorated by Chinese National Day (国庆节, guó qìng jié) with extensive activities and displays all over the country.

National Day pays tribute to the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which – funnily enough, was NOT on October 1st, but on September 21st, 1949. But October 1st, 1949 saw a big ceremony commemorating the founding of the Central People’s Government for the emerging nation. And, when the brand-new government passed the ‘Resolution on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China’ the following day, this document named October 1st as National Day. Maybe because 10.1 (十一, shí yī, the Chinese way of saying October 1s) has a nicer ring to it than 9.21 (九二十一, jiǔ èr shí yī), which is quite a mouthful? Or maybe because this date was in line with several other holidays such as Labour Day (五一, wǔ yī, on May 1st), Children’s Day (六一, liù yī, on June 1st), the Day of the Founding of the Communist Party of China (七一, qī yī, on July 1st) and Army Day (八一, bā yī, on August 1st)? We might never know.

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The 1st anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, troops march through Tiananmen Square (www.china.org.cn)

Certain, however, is that ever since the year 1950, National Day has been celebrated with pomp throughout the nation. Events such as flag-raising ceremonies, dance and song programs and live performances, fireworks and painting and calligraphy displays mark this illustrious occasion in all Chinese provinces. In anniversary years, Tiananmen Square in Beijing is awash with soldiers marching for a humungous military review and parade. This has happened 14 times so far since the birth of the PRC.

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Civilian parade on Tian’anmen Square on the PRC’s 60th birthday, 2009 (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

I would wager that – even more than the patriotic displays – what makes National Day such a popular holiday, is that it’s the occasion for one of China’s Golden Weeks (黄金周, huáng jīn zhōu). Golden Week is a seven-day break from work actually comprised of a 3-day official holiday plus 2 work days “stolen” from one or both of the adjoining weekends. For National Day Golden Week 2016, this means that China’s workforce is off from Saturday, October 1st, until Friday, October 7th. But on Saturday and Sunday the 8th and 9th, it is back to the grindstone and work goes on seamlessly until the following weekend. I personally doubt the benefits of 7 days off if it means I then have to toil for 7 consecutive days. But I guess that’s just how the (fortune) cookie crumbles…

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October 2016 Golden Week time off.

The Golden Week for China’s National Day is one of China’s busiest travel times. Tourists appreciate the mild autumn weather and use their well-deserved break time to discover the Middle Kingdom and its surrounding countries. Whether it be inside the country or in pretty much any other touristy spot across South East Asia, this is the week you will hear Chinese everywhere, see Chinese everywhere and stand in line for all and any noteworthy spots. Ever queued a mountain all the way up to the peak? Travel to Huashan, Changbaishan or any other mountainous tourist destination in China during Golden Week if you are eager for that “special” experience. I personally do not particularly relish or recommend it, but – different strokes for different folks.

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Station is filled with passengers at the start of Golden Week, 2014 (abcnews.go.com)

The down-turn to a vast majority of 1.37 billion Chinese spontaneously deciding to travel at the same time? Serious hikes in prices for hotels, flights, and services everywhere. While train tickets are not more expensive during that time, they tend to sell out literally within minutes of becoming available. So, should you wish to travel by train THIS Golden Week, you are probably out of luck. For next year, make sure to go online exactly 60 days prior to your desired departure date, as that is when tickets become available. To ensure success, prepare everything beforehand so that you can purchase your tickets with only one click. An alternative is to trek to the sales counter at your local train station 58 days before departure, when the rest of the tickets are sold off through that channel. But by then, only a couple (if any) tickets will still be available.  While air fares are more numerous than train tickets, the hefty price increase for flights between September 25th and October 10th is something to keep in mind when choosing this mode of transportation. Hotels are also much more costly during this time. Still, they tend to get scooped up quickly by other travelers and are a finite resource to boot. So, if you travel to a busy tourist spot without reserving a room beforehand, you might have to spend a night under the starry (or smoggy) sky – an adventure of dubious charms best avoided.

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Great Wall during the Holidays (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

But does it always have to be one of the country’s top 10 vacation spots? Sometimes, it is much nicer to explore places closer to “home” – maybe check out some of our “Hiker Diary” destinations, stroll around Shenyang’s markets such as Wu’Ai or the Exhibition Hall, look around the city’s parks or catch the last rays of sun before the long cold winter by biking along the Hun River. Shenyang has a lot to offer!

What are your plans for the glorious 7 days off at the beginning of October? Tell us in the comments, share this post with friends and family and do not forget to follow us on social media – Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, Instagram and of course our blog.

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