Counting down to countdown

Updated 2016-12-31 09:17:39 China Daily

For the last day of each year, millions of strangers come from across the world and gather at Times Square in New York to see performances and concerts and, of course, watch the ball drop.

This year, plenty of Chinese tourists are also looking forward to the event.

Mani Xu, a tour guide with Manhattan-based L&L Travel Enterprises, the largest Chinese travel agency in the US, is guiding a group of 36 tourists who came to New York to attend the New Year Countdown.

The total number of tourists joining L&L tours for the countdown was 264 this year, most of them on the young side and mostly Chinese.

Ma Yan, 32, a media practitioner from Beijing, is visiting the US for the first time.

Ma watched the Times Square Countdown on television for the last two years. "I chose to attend this group tour in particular because I really want to experience the atmosphere for myself," said Ma.

"I like Ryan Seacrest," Ma said. "I listen to his radio program everyday on my drive to work."

"He was on the TV broadcast for the last two years, I hope to see him and hear the live versions of this year's hit songs on Times Square," Ma added.

Ma and his wife are already well prepared with warmers, down jackets and diapers - brought all the way from China.

Ma joked that as a Chinese, he knew how to survive in a crowd. "We are experienced. Sometimes we go to see large-scale concerts, we prepare just like this," said Ma.

Zou Yuxuan, a 20-year-old Chinese college student studying in Missouri, was traveling in the group with her friend.

"All of my schoolmates and friends who had experienced the countdown at Times Square told me it was crazy and they would never ever do it again," said Zou.

"But we are still heading to it! Without hesitation! Because it's exciting and we are young!" Zou said excitedly.

"There was no holiday atmosphere in our school because all the American students went back home, even the Chinese restaurant closed and the only open market is Walmart," Zou said.

Before joining the group, Zou and her friends traveled with another group to Florida. Zou said, during holidays, most Chinese students studying in the US leave school and travel, if they don't have plans to go back to home. She even met some of her schoolmates who were also visiting the East Coast.

"I once attended countdown in Tiananmen Square," said Zhang Kai, 26, a Chinese communication industry practitioner, temporarily working in Latin America. "It aroused my patriotic feelings as a Chinese.

"But in New York it's totally different, it made me have a more cosmopolitan feeling," said Zhang.

Before arriving in the Big Apple, the group had visited Philadelphia, Washington and Boston over the past week. Most still have jet lag and are feeling a bit exhausted.

"No matter what, I believe it will be a valuable experience that I can share with my kids when I go back," said Ma, father of a two-year-old and a three-month-old.

"I believe if you want to experience the world's most ambitious, the best countdown, you have to bear the pain that ordinary people cannot bear," Zhang joked.

"I was ready when I made my decision to come," Zhang said firmly.

Xu and his colleagues will start to head to the countdown area at noon on Dec 31.

L & L will set up a rest stop on West 48th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, where the traffic is less.

There will be buses parked there to bring tourists back to their hotels after the countdown.

"But if any of our guests fail to make it to midnight, they come out from the area and we will get them back to hotels," Xu said.

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