It was the Labour Day holiday in China and I had expected crowds.
But I had not expected crowds on this scale.
At the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing, all I could see were heads and more heads.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally managed to enter the mausoleum.
But by then, we were exhausted from the long waits and in no mood to appreciate the surroundings.
Welcome to travel in China during the holiday season.
Like most other destinations in the world, there are peak and off-peak seasons for travel in China.
And following my three-day trip to Nanjing at the height of the peak season, I’ve resolved to try avoid the peak season when travelling not just in China, but also around the world.
There are certain advantages to travelling during the off-peak seasons, such as lower airfares and discounted accommodations.
And of course, you get to enjoy the place minus the crowds.
Dubrovnik, for instance, is known to be unpleasantly crowded (and expensive) during the Summer months.
But I had gone in Spring, and the owner of my guesthouse told me that had I gone just a week later, the prices of food and lodging in Dubrovnik would have gone up as they switch to peak-season pricing.
As it is, I got to enjoy the splendour of the Old Town without the crowds.
I also got to walk along the City Walls without feeling as if I were pushed along by people.
But there are certain drawbacks to travelling off-peak though.
I wanted to check out a gallery in Dubrovnik that’s devoted exclusively to war photography, but it’s only open in Summer, so you gain some and you lose some by travelling in the low season.
Also, for some destinations, it’s low season for a reason – because the weather is bad.
I had been looking forward to a trip to Matsuyama in Japan, but it rained both days I was there.
So I visited attractions such as the Ishite-ji, one of the temples of the famed 88 Temple Pilgrimage, in the rain.
And the view from the Matsuyama Castle was, well, I have no idea, because it was so foggy.
But assuming that the weather is fine, I would say the benefits of travelling off-peak outweighs the costs.
Beijing, for example, is a city that I’ve visited as a tourist in all seasons.
And I think it’s so much more pleasant during the off-peak season.
For one, you don’t have to book ahead for accommodation.
Also, places like the Forbidden City are so much more charming minus the crowds (it’s least crowded in Winter but don’t tell anyone).
So do you prefer travelling during the peak or off-peak seasons?