IN CHINA, you take your relaxation where you can find it, sometimes in a hammock by a smoke-belching factory zone in the southwestern city of Chongqing.

Yet with its surging growth of cities and industries, and massive population, China’s middle-class locals and foreign tourists search for more bucolic places, flocking to national parks and rural areas.

If you want to avoid truly epic travel congestion, be mindful when you go to China. Chinese workers tend to have fixed holiday periods when vast crowds jam the trains, planes, roads — and sights.

In October’s weeklong National Day holiday period, an annual peak travel time, hundreds of millions of Chinese were on the move. In the city of Hangzhou, more than a million people flocked to a scenic lake on a single day.

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Another mammoth travel time is during the Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year (on Jan. 31 in 2014), with its weeklong Spring Festival. It’s the nation’s most important holiday period, which varies each year according to the lunar calendar. And it can seem like the whole country is traveling, amid a din of firecrackers and fireworks, for family reunions.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at