Returning to Hanoi after the Kunming – Lijiang – Shangri-la tour at the end of September, Hoai Nam, a tour guide specializing in overseas travel in China, had a few days off because most Vietnamese travel agencies do not organize no trips to China on their annual tour. Golden Week holidays to avoid massive crowds.
“It was extremely crowded. Never visit China at that time,” said Nam, who led Vietnamese tour groups to China during Golden Week in 2018 and 2019.
The seven-day holiday, from October 1 to 7, is called Golden Week, as the Chinese celebrate the annual national holiday. Chinese people are given a week off to travel and reunite with their families in the government to boost domestic tourism growth.
“The bus stations were too busy and it was difficult to breathe because the streets were full of people,” Nam said of his experience during the Golden Week holiday in the world’s second-most populous country.
For road tours, tourist groups had to wait 6 to 8 hours to cross the border. Even though the plane wait time was faster, “people still felt tired because of overcrowding,” he said.
Nam said that when he took customers to Chinese restaurants, he even had to wait at the kitchen door to help find food for the diners.
“The wait time for food was too long and there were not enough seats,” he added.
In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, he was “panicked” by the immense human tide everywhere.
On a trip to Shanghai in 2018 with a group of more than 20 tourists at a temple, his group had an hour to explore. After an hour, two tourists, a middle-aged couple, did not show up and did not have a Chinese SIM card to contact anyone.
Nam decided to let the local guide take the group to the restaurant while he stayed to wait for the couple. However, three hours have passed and he still hasn’t seen them. After seeking help from local police, the two tourists were found “pale and panicked.”
Nguyen Van Binh, a tour guide at Trang An Travel, shares the same sentiment as Nam about Golden Week.
He said lines of people queuing to enter the station ticket office could sometimes stretch up to a kilometer.
Waiting and queuing for too long tires tourists. In 2019, when a group of Vietnamese tourists visited the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain near the ancient city of Lijiang, a woman fainted while waiting in line. She suffered from osteoarthritis and couldn’t stand for too long, but she didn’t tell the tour guides about her condition in advance.
Binh said traveling to China during Golden Week affects tourists’ experience and leaves them with a bad impression. This year, his company didn’t even bother to organize tours to China for the holidays.
A travel agency said Chinese authorities strictly controlled group visa applications from Vietnam in October and that Vietnamese tourist groups risked having 20 to 50 percent of their applications rejected, and sometimes even 100 percent.
This year, the annual Mid-Autumn Festival coincided with the northern neighbor’s National Day celebrations (October 1), resulting in an eight-day holiday that ended on Friday.