Chinese Middle Class is Discovering Camping
Since Zhang Jiajun, 32, first saw a camper van in the 1999 movie "Be There or Be Square," he dreamed about traveling in such a vehicle – being able to control every aspect of his trips and avoiding the headaches of transportation and hotel bookings, the Global Times, Beijing, reported.
In recent years, he's fulfilled his dream by renting an RV and taking road trips to Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Sichuan Province and Tibet Autonomous Region. This summer, however, Zhang opted to spend some time in the RV parks just outside Beijing.
"It's an escape from the pollution and bustle of downtown Beijing," Zhang said while packing his car and waiting for his friends to kick off another weekend trip. "For office workers like me who don't have much holiday time for long-distance trips, these caravan parks have become a nice option."
In addition to serving as deluxe rest stops for out-of-town travelers, some of Beijing's RV parks also offer stationary trailers as accommodations for locals seeking a quick getaway.
"We don't have much money and the skill to drive a camper van. But spending a night or two in a trailer is a cool experience," said Shan Bi, 27, a white-collar worker who just spent a weekend in a RV park in Miyun with her family.
The managers of these parks say they are more like holiday resorts than mere parking lots. Some are conveniently located near scenic areas and many also provide activities such as swimming pools, gyms and horse riding.
"The majority of our customers are families, followed by companies and schools that organize activities or meetings in our park," said Liu Jia, a manager of the Beijing International Autocamping Park in Fengtai district.
Liu said they get 5,000 to 10,000 visitors per month. Most of the RV parking spaces are rented by travelers from other parts of the country who are seeking a safe place to park for the night as well as special facilities for battery recharging and wastewater discharge.
Although China's authorities have encouraged the development of RV camps, there is currently no national standard for camping sites, and therefore travelers face an inconsistency of conditions.
"When I stopped overnight in Guizhou Province during a road trip to Thailand last year, it was time-consuming to find locations to park," Zhang said. "The road shoulders are often rocky and some parking lots do not allow people to stay overnight. This nearly became the biggest concern of my entire trip."
Even when he did finally manage to find parking, he often had trouble getting a good night's sleep because people would gather around the vehicle asking for a glimpse of the interior, says Zhang, attributing the curiosity of the locals to the fact that RVs are still a novelty in China.
"In China, there are about 40 to 50 sites that can call themselves caravan parks. Beijing has around 10 of them," said Wang Bizhuo, a senior manager of a company which operates trailer parks around China.
Meanwhile, Beijingers continue to find great value in these local caravan parks. "I hear about customers who are concerned about finding parking for their RVs downtown after they return home from their trips," said Wang. "These trailer parks also offer long-term parking for RV owners. They serve not only as a destination or rest stop for travelers but also a home for their cars."