Key Words: trourism, trip, Spring Festival, Cambodia, Snake Year
For the upcoming Snake Year, instead of spending Spring Festival vacation in front of the TV at home, many are choosing to travel outside the country, to exotic locales off most Chinese's radar. Besides the benefit of avoiding the crowds, these trips can also come with a nice discount from travel agencies.
For their Spring Festival this year, Dong Tianshu and Yao Xijun, seniors at Beihang University and Peking University, respectively, will be heading to Cambodia.
Dong, 22, said his first destination in mind was Taiwan, but it was so popular that he didn't get a chance to sign up with a travel agency.
Having missed out on the more popular holiday destinations, Dong and Yao gathered together four more friends to sign up for a trip abroad. After discussing far-off places such as Egypt, they landed on Cambodia.
"It takes less time to travel to Cambodia and it's a lot cheaper," said Dong. His trip cost about 10,000 yuan ($1,607) per person.
Their group will follow the agency's itinerary and visit historical sites such as Angkor Wat, a Hindu Temple in Cambodia.
Surrounded by a moat and an outer temple wall, Angkor Wat, Cambodia's prime tourist attraction, was built in the early 12th century and stands as an architectural feat. It's the largest Hindu temple in the world. Visiting the sacred grounds, filled with intricate sculptures and picturesque decay, brings travellers the feeling of going back in time.
"We decided after comparing many plans," Dong said. "We researched the places as well as agencies and we looked at the groups that were professional. Furthermore, my parents have been to Cambodia, so they don't have any worries [about my safety]."
Yao said traveling to less popular destinations doesn't mean his personal safety can't be ensured. He has been to Kenya, which was unsafe and tourists have been robbed, but he followed the instructions his travel guides gave him and managed to stay out of harm's way.
Kenya is another unique option for Spring Festival travellers. A 10-day trip to Kenya sets off before February 7, the eve before Spring Festival, China International Travel Service (CITS) travel agent Liu Yinxia explained, and it includes trips to wild animal protection zones, Kenya's specialty. The first stop on that trip is Treetops Hotel in Aberdare National Park near the township of Nyeri, at 1,966 meters above sea level. The following days will take travelers into nature reserves where tourists can check out lions, cheetahs, elephants and giraffes from the (relative) security of their safari buggies. A spot in the 20-person group going to Kenya costs 21,500 yuan and still has seven spots up for grabs.
"Even though there are still spots on that trip, we advise people to sign up quickly, because the spots are usually gone pretty fast," she said.
Lin is offering a discount for a 19-person, 22,600 yuan trip to South Africa, which has four spots open.
Hua Qing, an agent at Caissa Touristic Group, said their group trips to Africa are nearly full. There is only one spot left, in fact - for their Namibia trip, an 11-person tour leaving February 12 and costing 15,000 yuan.
Caissa also offers trips to Jordan and Israel, which turned out to be big sellers as well, with only four spots left for the 23-person excursions.
"Africa is in the summertime then, so it's suitable for traveling," she said.
Lin said when traveling with the group, safety is ensured, even though Africa might be an unfamiliar frontier to many.
"We have organized everyone to take vaccine shots," she said. "As long as we don't drink the local water, everybody will be fine."
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