Robert Siegel

Semi-Vacation Day


The Siegel Has Landed: NPR's Anthony Kuhn, left, welcomes ATC Host Robert Siegel to his courtyard. Photo by Alison Klayman hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Alison Klayman

Arrived in Beijing at World's Biggest Airline Terminal and was met by a friendly ex-ATC intern Alison Klayman, now working in Beijing. The city, of course, is huge and I am puzzled as to whether the traffic is heavy or light for a place with more people than New York. Today, there was no good answer as no one could quite say if this was weekend traffic or workaday traffic.

It seems the Chinese government is experimenting with vacation times, trying to break up big blocks of time when all one point three billion get the day off. So for this year's May 1st holiday, they gave the country Friday off as well as Thursday, but rather than go for broke and have a FOUR Day weekend, they declared Sunday a work day this week.

There may be somewhat less than full compliance. A gut estimate of Beijing traffic volume? Everyone agrees it's bumper-to-bumper compared to ten years ago when private car ownership was a rarity. But, by New York, London, LA or Mexico City standards, this city looks like it's still moving pretty well.



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And, to add insult to injury, the official holiday is not announced until one week before it is to begin!!

We all knew that we would have to "pay" for having Friday off with a Sunday, but I had my fingers crossed that we would work on Sunday, April 25, giving us a 4-day weekend the following weekend. But nooooo...

The streets of Chengdu were devoid of traffic this weekend. Where was everybody?

Why, shopping at the May Day sales, of course!!

Sent by Aly | 10:36 AM | 5-4-2008

Chengdu ranked third in terms of number of privately owned cars in China. There were 1000+ cars registered each day during my visit there last week, and this number is said to be consistently increasing in the last two years.

So, you can image the situation in Beijing, where people owns the largest number of private vehicles in China, not to mention govermental vehicles.

Sent by Liang | 11:23 AM | 5-4-2008

Comparing Beijing traffic to that in western countries is like comparing apples and oranges. The drivers in China are among the least courteous and worst in the world. Traffic there is much worse than in any of the cities mentioned.

I doubt that Mr. Siegel did any driving himself, as I have for many years.

Sent by herongh | 11:54 AM | 5-4-2008

Herongh is right. I am one of those lucky people with extra passport pages from all the traveling. Chinese drivers are the least courteous and worst in the world. They are also the most dangerous.

Re: "Three-Day Holidays". If you usually have weekends off and are given a "Three-Day Holiday" of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which requires a makeup day on Sunday, you really only have a one-day holiday. In three years in China I have never met anyone who complains about the last minute and capricious holiday practices of the government and employers. So much for life in the workers' paradise.

Sent by Tom Hill, Chengdu | 11:46 PM | 5-6-2008


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