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Tourist index tells where crowds are

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

13:58, May 01, 2012

BEIJING, May. 01 (Xinhuanet) -- Beijing launched an hourly updated online index of crowds at major tourist sites on Sunday, the day that China's railway broke its record for the amount of passengers carried on any single day of a May Day holiday.

The index, launched at bjta.gov.cn on Sunday, the first day of the holiday, covers six major sites in Beijing, including the Palace Museum, Summer Palace and Badaling section of the Great Wall. It indicates the size of crowds according to a five-level system, with level five being the most crowded.

The Palace Museum, which had the more visitors than the other sites on Sunday - 10,100 people, or 26 percent more than the same day last year - was labeled level four.

"There were so many people at the Palace Museum that we just moved forward with the crowd step by step," said Joaquin Couchot, an 18-year-old exchange student from Chile, who came to Beijing with his four friends for the first time.

"The buildings are magnificent, but I didn't expect that crowd. I should have taken my Chinese friends' advice about visiting on a normal weekend," he said loudly, to be heard above the crowd.

Most tourists hadn't heard of the index. Liu Jing, a postgraduate student at Peking University, said she and her friend wanted to go boating at the Summer Palace on Sunday but the lines were just too long.

"We bought the tickets from scalpers, though they charged an extra 5 yuan (80 cents). The multitude lined up in front scared me," she said.

However, Liu suggested that the index might not deter tourists from visiting heavily crowded sites. "Visitors come here with an awareness of the large crowds, and they may not have a chance to come at another time. So they have little choice but to squeeze into the throng of people visiting the sites."

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