Experiencing the massive crowds in Asia as if I am not Asian.

Talking about densely populated cities in the world, that includes New York, Singapore and Macau to name a few. Born and raised in Singapore, I never really had problems facing large crowds maybe because I was already used to such environment, or at least I thought I was.

So, I visited a park in Bucharest this spring during one of their public holidays. And during this kind of days, it is expected that attractions or such may be more crowded than usual. But the park was really spacious, having a lot of space to roam about, and while I think it was really nice, and honestly in my opinion it was not at all crowded, my European friends did find it a little packed. I even had a friend who cut his trip to SEAsia short because of the amount of people he was dealing with at temples etc., which he expected it to be nice, peaceful and quiet. But I do understand that.

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Sometimes the amount of visitors at an attraction in Asia can be frightening and too much to handle with, let’s say, 3 buses of 30 tourists each, flooding one place all at the same time on top of the other visitors, making it less than enjoyable. Double that amount during extreme peak seasons such as Lunar New Year Holiday, you can expect a jam-packed temple in Thailand. Even on normal days, us, Singaporeans, are already showing dissatisfaction about the crowd in Singapore.

Jiuzhaigou, China

Tourists at Jiuzhaigou, China / Image credit: Philippe Semanaz
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Crowds at Maya Bay, Thailand / Image credit: Niruth Darid Bannob

While I do understand that it is a scene that some may not be able to cope with, I did not expect myself to be affected by it except from the occasional complaints that I may make when rushing for time (which I had the privilege to get rid of for some time as I took a gap year).

I headed to Hong Kong a few months later after arriving back in Asia from a year travelling in the west, where I was not met with any crowds too much for me to handle. And there was one particular day where I went to look for books at the much talk about Eslite, Hong Kong. Since it was during the office hours when I went in the afternoon where the crowd was nothing out of the ordinary, it did not occur to me that I was in one of the busiest areas in Hong Kong and the potential rush hour crowds that I might face. It did not help either that I have a dinner appointment to rush to.

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Causeway Bay, Hong Kong / Image credit: Phil Wiffen

Leaving the building at 7pm, I was blocked by a human brick literally at the landing of an escalator which left me dumbstruck. Swear I stood paralysed for a few seconds before moving away. But was so lost as I can not even find the bus stop that I was looking for with so many people everywhere, all over, that what I was looking for could have possibly been “covered up” by the large crowds. It was a horrible sight anyway. Sometimes you cannot find people to ask for directions, but with so many people, I could not find anyone to ask either because I was so frightened by the scene that I could not focus. No joke. Eventually, I found a quiet office lobby which I quickly made a dodge to enquire from the front desk officer. But that’s not all. Never seen a line for bus where I can’t find the ends of it, for it has maybe dug its way into the crowds of the streets. The boarding never seems to end as well.

If shopping is a sport, Causeway Bay is the Olympic Games – as seen on Hong Kong Tourism Board’s website.

Well, I guessed all this is also part of an experience visiting a foreign country, which we look forward to when travelling, so I’m not complaining. One of my friends even recommended me to visit Central’s metro station during rush hour if I have the time, saying it is one of the experience to be had. Next time maybe. I don’t know if I can handle this much in one trip :p

The more you travel, the more you learn – it definitely does. Now rather than just understanding, I could probably relate to the foreigners better when they talk about the “people mountain people sea” scene that they came across in Asia. Not saying that every inch of Asia is like this though. In fact, I spent a really peaceful vacation in Taiwan this summer, and autumn which was a bit too quiet. Just really curious now as to how foreigners feel about this during their first trip to Asia.


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