Kung Fu Fighting

Have you ever taken the subway in a big city? Have you done it during rush hour? With your next 6 months worth of clothing on your back? We usually try to avoid the subways during rush hour times and sometimes if we do have our luggage, we will walk or even spring for a cab rather than bashing people with our items.

However, when you live in a country with approximately 1.5 billion people, you get bumped around no matter what. The subways are always full; people are rushing on and off and up and down the stairs. It is quite a sight. But the best was today, when we HAD to ride during rush hour. We were smashed into the car (luckily without bags!) with about oh, maybe 1.4 billion other people. You can't move or hold on to anything; you just hope that if the train stops the other 1.39 billion people will hold you up.

This has happened to me before. In San Francisco coming home on the MUNI after a Giants game is a pretty tight squeeze. I have ridden a non-air conditioned packed full (smelly) subway in Paris. In Japan, they have an attendant with a cattle prod who keeps pushing more and more (and more!) people into the train. However, I think China tops them all. Not only were we smashed in so tightly, but if someone in the middle wants to get out they just squirm their way to the edge. Even better was something else I saw today; it was basically a mosh pit of subway riders. When the train stopped, people were trying to run off the train; others were trying to run on…It was like they were fighting. Everyone was shifting and leaning and pushing and jumping and swaying and GWWWWARRRR! I felt like body slamming someone. Everyone else seemed to be having fun doing it.

As funny as this is when you are only doing it once in a while, the sheer excess of people in China has also caused us a little problem. February 3rd is Chinese New Year. That and the (basically) two week period before that are called the Spring Festival. This means: starting Wednesday the 19th and going until February 3rd, people are on vacation. Kids are out of school; people in the cities go home to visit their families; EVERYONE travels somewhere. What does this mean for us? This means we cannot get a train, bus, boat OR car out of Beijing. It's like a bad movie.

Our plan was to go from Beijing south, eventually ending up in Macau, where we would celebrate the New Year and then go to Vietnam. CHANGE IN PLANS!!! We can't get out. Even if we do get out somehow, we won't be able to go anywhere from there. So we have decided to, unfortunately, leave China early. Bangkok (and about a 70 degree raise in temperature) here we come!!! Instead of heading south from China to Vietnam, we will head north from Thailand to Vietnam. Crisis (and cold weather) averted. Phew.

Have you ever been stuck somewhere? Was it because of weather…or…? Did it ruin your trip? Are you a calm traveler or do you freak out in situations like this?


  1. When we were on the road, I started to hate holidays!!! Everything is closed. Nothing works. It sucks. I feel you! We made the mistake of going to S.E. Asia in April..it was waaaay hot. If you go to Cambodia, go a.s.a.p.! It's hot now, but hotter later!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This post fascinated me! It must have felt very weird to be so crammed. Very interesting.

    I think you stay calm when traveling because you have to, but it's not a real calm, it's like right on the edge. ((((Hugs))))

  4. When I was in Japan over the summer, we saw a train car so full people's noses were pushed against the glass. Luckily, we didn't have our luggage and we were in the tail end of rush hour headed in a not-too-busy direction. I don't think I could handle that claustrophobia!

  5. An hour in a traffic jam on a highway cures me. I'll go all out to avoid situations like that. We drove 27 hours straight (well, with about 3 - 20 min. naps) to avoid being stuck in the Carolinas during a recent winter storm on our way down to Florida.

    Great story though !


Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!