Now don't get me wrong, teaching abroad in China is all about broadening your career path and growing as a person… but you can't deny the travel is a huge plus. With EF, most of your time off will come during public holidays. So, what is it really like to travel in a country as massive and heavily populated as China? Here are a few tips for helping you conquer traveling in China during the May Holiday.
It's China. But don't let that deter you! I went to Beijing, the country's capital, and even I was able to avoid crowds at times. Most masses gather at major tourist attractions and the transportation hubs around those sights.
Line to enter the subway at rush hour.
You can alleviate this by getting up early! If you're planning a big trip like the Great Wall, opt for the morning tour. By the afternoon, it will be packed, but your morning will be a breeze. At the end of the day, it's not a deal breaker. Getting to experience authentic China undeniably outweighs dealing with the crowds.
One positive about traveling in China during a big holiday is getting to experience things that you normally wouldn't during the off season. For example, every spring Yuyuantan Park holds a Cherry Blossom Festival. It's a gorgeous time to take in the beauty of the cherry blossom trees. You can walk around and take photos, take a guided boat tour on the lake, vendors sell food and ice cream in the shape of cherry blossoms; it's a unique experience you would miss out on if you weren't traveling during May Holiday. And if parks aren't your thing, you can walk down any street during the evening and find a group of performers doing some colorful, traditional Chinese dance. In the nutshell, because it is a time of celebration, there is always something interesting happening around every corner.
Street performers outside The Place shopping mall.
If the logistics of travel freak you out like it does me, plan ahead! You can design your itinerary to accommodate for things like large crowds, lulls in transportation; anything that might give you anxiety during your trip. I even went so far as to perform a dry run of the path from my apartment to the airport located 2 hours away in another city. If it helps relieve some stress, do it. If you're going to a popular tourist area, go in the morning; and in the afternoon and evening when crowds are heavy, plan to venture away from those spots. Pro tip: the locals are friendly and willing to answer questions! And in big cities like Beijing, many people do speak English, so don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Speaking of venturing away from tourist hot spots, some of the best memories are made by finding a diamond in the rough. Not only is it not saturated with people, but the fact that few others can say they've seen or done something off the beaten path, makes it that much more special. This does mean that wherever you end up may be quite a trek from the city center; but make no mistake, it's totally worth it. Try searching for unusual things to do in your city; or try a local experience like a cooking class, temple stay, or yoga retreat. Figure out where the best view is. It might just end up being the highlight of your holiday.
View of the CCTV tower from Migas Mercado.
In case you didn't know, China is huge. Not just in rural areas, but urban centers spread far and wide. It can take hours just to get from one end of the city to the other. So, unless you're willing to spend a pretty penny on a taxi every single time, you'll be walking. To and from bus stops, subway stations, final destinations, etc. This means bring your walking shoes and a box of Band-Aids in case of blisters. And let's not forget, it's May, which means it's hot. Stay hydrated, bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with you everywhere. The last thing you want is to come home with a sunburn and blisters, so travel smart.