An umbrella hit ours.
Another umbrella snagged my hair, tugging me backward.
Yet another umbrella poured water onto us.
Welcome to travel during China's Golden Week.
For Guoqingjie, or National Holiday, the flags come out, some companies close and everyone gears up for the celebration. That's Oct. 1 to Oct. 3. The rest of that week, though, was made to be a holiday to not only allay scheduling issues at schools and companies, but monopolize on potential tourism revenue. And so we have Huangjinzhou, or Golden Week.
This holiday has been a boon to tourism and the local economy, having brought in about $87.7 billion of revenue this year, according to the China National Tourism Administration. The CNTA also reported that 705 million tourists traveled around China this holiday.
And there Manfriend and I were, silly enough to think we could literally push our way through for a cheap holiday.
Unwilling to fork out the yuan necessary for neighboring nations like Japan or Vietnam, we created a long string of mini trips. First, a train to Shanghai, then a train to Nanjing. A flight to Shenzhen would put us in position for a ferry to Hong Kong. Another ferry to and from Macau, and we would be prepped to return home.
What we weren't prepared for were the crowds.
My god, the crowds.
The China Railway Corp. estimates 110 million trips were made by railway between Sept. 28 to Oct. 9. And we were in good company with the hundreds of thousands of others flying out to their foreign destinations that week. On Oct. 1 alone, nearly 1,000 passengers reportedly missed their flights just in Guangzhou because of a massive traffic jam.
On the aforementioned rainy evening in Nanjing, Manfriend and I were two of thousands jostling to see the Qinhuai River. Lights reflected off the dark waters, and vendors called out to the wall of passers-by. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, I did my best to snag a photo here and there. Mostly, though, we just tried to keep our footing among the loud, pushy and utterly oblivious masses.
Once back at the hotel, I just sank onto the bed.
So. Many. People.
And to think I'd ever been frazzled by Beijing's subway rush hour.
The same happened in Shanghai and Hong Kong. On our last day, we set out for Macau hoping to escape the madness.
A former Portuguese colony, Macau was unlike any of our other destinations. We moved slowly along winding streets, marveling at the architecture. There was no plan, just an idea to walk. Eventually we made our way up to the Fortaleza do Monte, a fort on top of a central hill.
The sun was setting and we were largely alone, aside from a few (surprisingly quiet) visitors. I found a bench and sat down. I snapped a few photos, leaned back and shut my eyes. Manfriend sat beside me. We were both silent. It was so peaceful.
Impossibly, we'd finally done it. We had found the quiet amid the infamous Golden Week.
And we enjoyed every solitary minute of it.