Anyone who does private labeling Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) knows all too well about Chinese New Year/Spring Festival.
For those who don’t, it’s the cause of the largest annual mass human migration in the world. Think of Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Memorial Day and 4th of July travel all compressed into a single holiday travel event.
When the Chinese New Year happens China basically shuts down and stops working. Literally! Some Chinese workers can be off for as long as three to four weeks.
For our FBA business that means first quarter orders must be placed in November if we want them on a boat before the country closes for a few weeks over Chinese New Year. We KNOW this! We LIVE this!
But we didn’t stop to consider what Chinese New Year would mean for our digital nomad lifestyle. Oooops.
Koh Samui to Chiang Mai
When we bought our tickets on Bangkok Airlines nonstop from Koh Samui to Chiang Mai we chose our seats and saw that the plane was less than half full. Sweet, we thought, easy day of travel.
In the end, not so much.
The airport on Koh Samui is privately owned…by Bangkok Airlines. And as Lisa pointed out, it is obvious that it is run by a company rather than a bureaucracy. It has the design and feel of a relaxing resort rather than a utilitarian bus stop. Each gate area resembles a hut and complimentary snacks and beverages are available in the gate areas. All gates are remote, but passengers make their way to and from planes on buggies right out of Disneyland circa 1980. The only way to describe it is ‘cute!’ And it does take the edge off of the whole remote gate experience (you can see one zipping by in the video below).
We boarded from the stairs to the door at the rear of the plane to reach row 16…immediately it was clear that this was NOT going to be a half-full flight. To the contrary, it was packed to the gills. Fortunately, Asian carriers have a well-earned reputation for making passengers check bags (this is why we packed so judiciously and so small) so overhead space was not an issue the way it would have been on a domestic US flight. The plane was not just very full, it was very full of Chinese families enjoying their Chinese New Year getaway. They just didn’t choose seats until check-in, which is why we were fooled when we looked at the seat map.
By my very unscientific analysis, about 1/3 of the passengers were screaming infants or toddlers. Another 1/3 were playing videos or video games on their phones with no headphones and the volume turned up to max (this appears to be a thing – many Asians AND Europeans were doing this on the flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui too). My favorite was the toddler who was screaming while her ipad was blaring a game that featured lots of alarms that sounded – disconcertingly- like airplane cockpit warning alarms. Just charming! The final 1/3 of the passengers were doing their best to ignore the other 2/3.
Surviving the Flight
Now, I have a strong and long-standing opinion that noise and light control are the personal responsibility of each flyer. So I always travel with noise-canceling earbuds (noise canceling headphones are far too bulky) and eye shades. Soon I was immersed in my own music and trying to finally get through the last Harry Potter book (I started the series about 2 years ago…finally on the last lap!), so no bother.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s strategic seat selections (me on aisle, her on window) somehow miraculously left the seat between us the only empty seat on the plane! She had her earbuds in too so we just smiled at each other and carried on.
Soon enough we had arrived in Chiang Mai and made our way to the Old City and our guest house where we had booked and paid for 4 nights.
Unfortunately, that was only the start of our paying the toll for not thinking about travelling in Southeast Asia during Chinese New Year. We’d soon find out what a costly mistake that truly was…and how to make more lemonade out of those lemons.