While 12:00 AM, January 1, is generally referred to as the New Year, a select few celebrate a more auspicious holiday, which coincides with the cycles of the moon. Lunar New Year – or ‘Chun Jie’ in China, ‘Tsaagan Sar’ in Mongolia, and ‘Seollal’ in Korea – is one of the few public holidays that provides blue-collar workers the time to retreat to their former origins.
From of the depths of a hazy China urbanstrosity, the result is the largest human migration on the face of the planet, with an estimated 3.6 billion trips taken over the course of 40 days. Millions of people stuff themselves into every nook and cranny of every bus or train to get back to their families, and spend a hectic week over food and drink.
Naturally, it seemed like the right time to go.
A friend and fellow graduate from the Duke University Mathematics Department joined me on this particular adventure, and the itinerary was intended to be something as follows: Erlian, Beijing, Xi’an, Nanjing, Suzhou/Hangzhou, and Shanghai. On average we managed to stay the course, minus one major screw-up on my part, but only to the extent of what is expected (or given) on a trip of this nature.
The journey began in the the feisty -40 degree Mongolian weather, accordingly, during the coldest week of the year. Several days were warmed with whiskey, as we split the wintry chill on horseback and snowboard.
After our treks through the Mongolian countryside, we hopped an overnight train, heading deep south to the edgy border town of Erlian. With twisted fingers, broken Chinese, and Train Mum, a lovely lady who shared out train cabin, we were able to negotiate a car to take us down through the desert, and across the arid steppe hills of Inner Mongolia – 700 km south to Beijing.
Stay tuned for more of my new year adventures in China!