Traveling in China at the wrong—or maybe the right—time

If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience an overpopulated world, it’s easy to discover what that feels like.  Just travel to China during its Lunar New Year. For 2014, that day will be January 31, the year of the horse. reported: Hundreds of millions of Chinese travel home to celebrate the Lunar New Year. It’s the largest human migration on earth—and it stretches the country’s transportation system to the limit.

My sister and her youngest daughter traveled with us to China in 2008 during the Lunar New Year—both are evangelical Christians and they didn’t believe in China’s one-child policy or abortion rights for women anywhere.

Then they arrived in China and experienced the largest annual migration in history. That’s when they stopped preaching about the one-child policy and abortion. But they didn’t offer any support for abortion either. There was just a shocked silence

It was so crowded at times it felt as if we were swimming in a sea of people, and I decided that my next trip to China will not be near the end of January or early in February. The old rail system in China barely managed to move the 220 million people who traveled home that year to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year with family.

To deal with this migration, China’s high-speed rail system will become the largest, fastest, and most technologically advanced high-speed rail system in the world by 2020. The plans are to build 50,000 km of high-speed rail with trains reaching speeds of 180 miles per hour. About 18,000 kilometers of high-speed rail have already been completed for a project that started five years ago. In 2014, China’s high-speed rail network will be able to carry 54 million people a month.

If you’re ready to visit China, hurry and book your flight now to arrive a few days before the Lunar New Year.

Discover Harbin’s Winter Wonderland


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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4 Responses to Traveling in China at the wrong—or maybe the right—time

  1. That’s an unimaginable number of people. I can’t even stand being in a mall during the holidays. Horrible.

    • I avoid crowds as much as possible. Urban China—for instance, the center of Shanghai and Beijing—is often like Times Square in New York on New Year’s Eve—but almost all the time and on national holidays it’s worse.

  2. merlin says:

    My advice in China during that time is stay in 1 place. I’m traveled to Guangdong recently, and now I’m stuck in Shenzhen for 3 days trying to get back to Shanghai. I feel as if I may have found one of the FEW hotels that accept foreigners in the entire city of Shenzhen.

    • I know. If you are traveling in China during a major holiday like the Chinese New Year or China’s liberation day holiday, make sure you have all your tickets weeks in advance—maybe even months.

      Last time we traveled in China during a major holiday where hundreds of millions are on the movie, it was a real challenge to book train or airplane tickets. And we discovered in some cases, there weren’t many choices for rooms in hotels. It was so bad, we found that hundreds if not thousands were sleeping at the local bus or train terminal on the floors.

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