In fact, it has already started. People have started travelling home for the Chinese New Year. Monday morning wasn’t like any other weekday I’ve seen since arriving. There was hardly any traffic on the roads. It’s more like a Sunday afternoon. Recently I’ve noticed a lot more inter-city buses making early morning and late night departures. A few days ago I saw five coaches parked down the street on the sidewalk, loading passengers. Whenever I ride the subway I see people, luggage in hand, on their way to the train station.
I’ve been trying to find out exactly how many people travel during this period, but it’s rather difficult to pin down reliable numbers. I think it’s safe to say that in the four to five day travel period around the beginning of the New Year holiday, more than 100 million people will travel home. I’m sure you’ve heard it described as the largest migration in human history. In China they do it every year at the beginning of the New Year holiday, and then again a week later. The total number of people travelling is probably higher, but it’s spread out over several weeks as students and others who have longer holidays go home earlier, and return later.
For my part, I’ll be staying away from the trains during the holiday. I was thinking about taking a trip in the middle of the holiday, in the eye of the hurricane so to speak, when everyone is at home rather than on the trains. Haven’t yet decided if I’ll do that. I do think it would be interesting to experience the greatest migration in human history firsthand, but I think the novelty of that would wear off pretty fast. Beside, the whole thing probably isn’t much fun for those who have to do it, it’s more of a headache.