Gearing up for the holidays in China and South Korea amid Covid-19 pandemic

Travellers at the Beijing Daxing International Airport, in Beijing on Sept 19, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

It's the annual holiday season in China and South Korea, where people traditionally travel across the country for family gatherings. But things are different this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Straits Times correspondents in Beijing and Seoul report.

'Golden Week' revives hopes of tourism boom

Tourist attractions like China's Chongsheng Temple (above) in Yunnan have a cap on visitor numbers. But holiday habits have also been changed by Covid-19: Travellers prefer to travel in smaller groups, for example. ST PHOTO: ELIZABETH LAW

Self-confessed "travelholic" Minnie Liu is going on vacation, her first for the year, during the "Golden Week" holidays next month.

The 28-year-old finance executive, who went on eight trips last year, wanted to do better than that this year but her plans were scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Now that the situation looks more stable, my friends and I are spending all the money we saved on a week-long Qinghai and Gansu holiday," she said.

She is not alone: The battered tourism sector is banking its recovery on the week-long holidays, which begin on Oct 1. The industry expects to see its first boom of the year next week, making it the most important holiday period yet.


Covid-19 affects Korean Thanksgiving Day

Visitors clearing the grass around their ancestors' graves on Jeju island, South Korea, last Sunday. On Monday, the government announced that all 11 national cemeteries will be closed from Sept 30 to Oct 4. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

For the first time in nine years, housewife Yvonne Park will be relaxing over chuseok, or the Korean Thanksgiving Day, instead of toiling over the sink "washing a mountain of dishes the size of Mount Everest".

Washing dishes and preparing food is the responsibility of first daughters-in-law like her, when the extended family gathers every autumn to pray to ancestors and catch up over a feast of traditional fare such as jeon (Korean pancakes) and songpyeon (crescent-shaped rice cake).

The annual festival in South Korea, which falls on Oct 1 this year, is known to be immensely stressful for married women who have to slog for hours in the kitchen, while young people dread nosy relatives trying to pry into their personal lives.

But this year, with the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing rules still in place, Mrs Park, 31, said her husband has decided against visiting his family with their three children, aged three to nine.


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.