China travel

Published on January 21st, 2012 | by Paz


The world’s largest human migration; Chinese New Year 2012

Celebrating Chinese New Year in China is like nothing you would or could ever imagine. Not because of the food, or decoration, but because of the crazy amount of people; EVERYWHERE!

“chunyun” is what China calls this mass migration. Not sure exactly what that means, but my definition is crazy. Plain and simple. It last for roughly 40 days. It starts 15 days prior to Chinese New Year and ends 25 days after. I also think this could be defined as the world’s longest human migration as well. Over 235 million people will migrate during that period of time. Not a typo….235 million people all moving around at the same time. Chaos is the first word that comes to my mind. In a country that doesn’t understand what forming a line means I didn’t know how this whole new year thing was going to play out.

According to China’s National Reform and Planning Commission, Chinese people will be making 3.1 billion trips during this year’s “chunyun” – a 9 percent increase from last year.

A picture with my iPhone…right after my some one grabbed my butt.

Going out in the Chaos

Last week we decided to visit one of the busiest bus/train stations to get a feel of what “chunyun” was all about. We didn’t bring the kids. As soon as we started nearing the stop people started piling in and piling in and they had their cardboard boxes, their rice sacks, and plastic bags filled to the top. Although we were stuffing in like stardines they still kept coming. One man pushed everyone back stretched his arms out flying eagle style and as the door was about to close on his nose, he threw his head back just to save himself from becoming a pancake. Then as we got out of the train it was wall to wall people. We moved one step at a time as if we were pieces of a puzzle in an assembly line. Imagine a concert starring Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jay Z, and then throw in that they all have luggage, boxes, rice bags, coolers and maybe some livestock in their possession.

As we continue to move I keep checking my bag (right in front of me) to make sure it is still there. A mysterious hand graces over my buttocks….is it Zeek…this is no time for games!

Nope, not Zeek! I shoot piercing glances at all the males near me. Then I think…does it really matter…we are standing so close that we are literally spooning. If the guy behind me gets excited lets say that I will be the first to find out. It could have been someone also checking to see if their wallet was still in place and we are so close that he accidentally grabbed my butt.

What does China do to try and control such a mob?

  1. They start the holiday on New Year’s Eve. This giving people more time off from work and spreading out the travel time for people to get home to their families.
  2. Bathrooms have been erected out of no where to accommodate the increase in traffic.
  3. Thousands of extra transportation staff have been hired to control the crowds.
  4. Police are out patrolling the streets and stations to make sure a stampede doesn’t occur and to detour pick pocketers.
  5. Barricades have been put up to herd the traffic in and out of certain areas.
  6. Banners and advertisements have gone up around the city to remind people to be courteous to those around them, especially the young and old.

Lupita and I went back a few days ago to take some pictures and the crowds were not nearly as bad and you would almost consider it empty.

A picture I took from across the street.

These are tents that are put up so that people can wait for their departing bus/train. Some you have to pay for and others you can only enter if your train is leaving soon. You have to show your ticket to get into the tent. No one is actually allowed in the station until their train is about to leave, they wouldn’t all fit inside.

Lupita striking a pose in front of the crowds. People are squatted literally all over the streets, waiting for their bus/train to leave. They have their boxes and bags surrounding them. The police keep people to the sides as to not block traffic.

Most are texting or talking with their families. No one seems to upset or bothered, they are use to the crowds and the lines. I know if this were to happen in the states there would be a mad rush from the soccer moms.

Since I was spooning in the crowds I wasn’t able to take a picture, but I found this one online. Yup, you get nice and close to each other. If you have personal space issues this might not be the best time to visit China.

Hmmmm….can you find a spot to sit?

Check back tomorrow to see what they do to celebrate! See all of the cool dragons. I have to admit I think Year of the Dragon is my favorite year.

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About the Author

Paz is an avid adventurer in life and food. Traveling across the globe with her family they enjoy cultural immersion and checking out the local eateries.

7 Responses to The world’s largest human migration; Chinese New Year 2012

  1. Kirsty says:

    You’re making me so homesick for China – chun jie is so vibrant and alive, and yes, a little crazy and I miss it 🙂
    Kirsty recently posted..Images from the beachMy Profile

    • Paz says:

      Yes, it has been very fulfilling. We have decided to not travel but hang around Guangzhou. It is raining everyday lately so that doesn’t make it much fun….but it certainly makes the crowds less.

      • Kirsty says:

        Such a shame it’s raining – it doesn’t usually rain this time of year, although it can be very cold. We used CNY as an opportunity to explore places around GZ like Foshan and Cong hua – once the initial public transport craziness had died down of course! Xin Nian Kuai Le!
        Kirsty recently posted..Letter to say 新年快乐 Happy Chinese New YearMy Profile

        • Paz says:

          Xin Nian Kuai Le! Yes it is raining and freezing. I hope we get out to a few locations today…to be determined to share in the festivities. I will post pictures later. We also wanted to go to Cong hua! On our todo list. Glad that you guys went. I bet it is awesome!!

  2. Joanna says:

    Omg, Paz…and we’re going from one of the least densely populated countries in the world (Canada) to this..I’m really nervous. My husband complains about the crowds in Toronto (1 hr from us) and that’s probably!! (he still wants to go to China though).

    • Paz says:

      hmmmm….your husband might be in for a real treat! I think if a Chinese city woke up with the population of Toronto…they might think that there had been an alien abduction over night and call a national emergency. lol 😉 You guys will love it. It is part of the experience and the cities that you are going to only have 4 or 5 million people…not 15 or 20 so just think about how empty they are. I love that. Also even though people shove and push and even step over our stroller like there is a sack of potatoes and not a child in there, no one gets upset. You see a few old women or men who might shout something but nothing else. I am guessing everyone just chalks them up to being old and grumpy. People take the crowds really well. We aren’t traveling during the craziness because well it is crazy. So maybe just tell your husband you don’t have to travel during Chinese New Year or “chun jie”. You will have great stories to tell. I am getting so excited for you guys.

  3. Joanna says:

    Thanks, Paz…we might be in Wuhan for quite a bit…almost 9 million (I think) so not bad, eh? And he’s a Year of the Dragon person (’64) so I’m hoping that’s a good omen 🙂

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