How To: Golden Week for All Future TBC Student Travelers
By Zachary K., Loyola University Maryland, TBC Fall 2019 Semester Abroad Student
Every year, TBC Students tend to celebrate the weeklong holiday, Golden Week or the Chinese National Day Holiday, by using the time to travel around China. In the past, students have traveled to places like Thailand, Laos, Japan, Korea, The Philippines – just to name a few. This is a great way to experience parts of Asia that most people rarely get to see in their lifetime; and honestly it can be an unforgettable experience, to say the least. On behalf of the 2019 Fall TBC students, we want to ensure that future travelers will have great vacations like we did.
So, before you go looking for tips on the cheapest and best places to go to for Golden Week, I feel obligated to share some experiences of the students from this Fall. So, in hopes that you have a flawless Fall Break outside of China (like many of us did), listen to our advice and take some of the small precautions to insure a fantastic and stress-free time… 🙂
#1 Protect Your Phone & Buy a Waterproof Phone Pouch/Case
If you want the story of how my phone was taken by the saltwater, you can read my other blog on my experience in the Philippines. It’s pretty interesting to say the least. What I should share though, is what happened when I got back on campus. Back in Beijing, with my (salt)water damaged phone, I got to see the many things you CAN’T do with a broken cellphone. So far, I’ve gone to a total of three different restaurants, ordered food and experienced something along the lines of this: Waiter or waitress asks me to pay, “No, no cash.” Then I go to hand my Chinese bank card. “No, No”. Your phone means a lot more here in China, than you think it does. So, wherever you go, and whatever you do, make sure you protect your electronics!!! This is Tip Number 1.
Just to add to the madness, THREE students in total ended up losing their phones to Golden Week and having to buy new ones.
#2 Bring Extra Cash (Just in Case)!
Many students during Golden Week found themselves spending very little – from street food to cheap $5 bus rides. Other TBC students found themselves spending much more than they had expected. You can experience a variety of different exchange rates and pricing when traveling around Asian countries, so just be wary of this. It helps to always bring an extra hundred or two hundred dollars in cash just in case something happens to your payment options while on vacation. Better to be safe than sorry.
#3 Plan Flights Early and Strategically!!!
Honestly, after spending a day or two at your Golden Week destination, you’re not going to want to leave. So, plan your flights properly and far in advance. Don’t make the mistake of missing a day or even two days abroad because the prices for flights and transportation WILL shoot up. Golden Week comes faster in the semester than most students realize, so plan early and save money so you can have more inexpensive options for your Golden Week.
Every year for Golden Week, TBC students usually visit a wide variety of places around Asia, and even sometimes further. Click here to check out last year’s blog about some of the places other students went. These are some of the locations TBC Fall 2019 students visited.
Laos/Thailand – For roughly 700-800 USD, Emma Goering was able to travel to Laos for 4 days, and Thailand for 3 days. The traveling costs were the most expensive part, but what was nice was that she got to travel within Southeast Asia seeing unique cultural aspects and spend very little on food and lodging (usually a meal at restaurants only cost her at most $5 even). Laos and Thailand have a little bit of everything you are looking for in a vacation: cheap but delicious cuisine, beaches, architecture, minimal spending costs, and a fantastic cultural experience.
Seoul, Korea – Stephanie Lew and a few of her friends went to Seoul for a few days staying in an Airbnb. Stephanie and her group saved a good amount of money by lodging together for the week. They got to explore the city’s wonderful cuisine and lively culture. Spending costs were very similar to that of the US, so with food, housing, and travel combined, they managed to get by spending around 800-900 USD. If you have a taste for cool city life, an amazing shopping experience, and wonderful food options, consider taking a trip to Korea. You won’t ever run out of places to visit or new things to do while you’re staying there.
The Philippines – Kale Kazyak and five of his good friends traveled to Manila and the Islands of Palawan (El Nido, Coron) for around 700 USD each. His flight was delayed so he had one less day of travel, but all in all, he had a fantastic time soaking up the sun at the world renowned beaches of the Palawan Islands. He got to go snorkeling and scuba diving with his friends in crystal blue waters and see the incredible ocean life of the Philippines. Additionally, Palawan is very inexpensive; you can reserve a 6-hour private boat tour of multiple islands for as little as $15. If you’re looking for a beach – where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets, warm weather, incredibly clear water – make sure you go to the Philippines.
Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing – Another student, Connor Brachtl, was lucky enough to travel and explore some of the famous cities within China. When asked about his Golden Week experience, Connor told us, “I traveled to Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanjing with one of TBC’s Chinese roommates. I explored enormous city-scapes, visited ancient tombs, went on an intense hike, and much more. We ended up traveling by train and plane, which was very affordable. On top of that, spending our nights in Airbnb’s was also affordable and very convenient. I ended up spending $500 total on my trip. Considering how much we did, that was a great deal! If I learned anything from my trip, I’d say that China has a bountiful amount of people and places to see with even better things to do, all for a reasonably low cost.” If you are looking to further explore Chinese culture and see beautiful areas of China, consider tasking a trip to the metropolitan city of Shanghai, or Hangzhou’s gorgeous West Lake.