The Chinese "Golden Week" refers either of the two week-long holidays around National Day on October 1, and the lunar calendar Spring Festival which usually falls in January or February of each year. Tens of millions of Chinese traval by air, train and road to family reunions, vacations or shopping centres during these holidays.
Mainland 'golden week' tourists shun Hong Kong's traditional attractions
'Golden week' tourists shun more traditional attractions such as luxury stores and head instead for rural areas and outlying islands
- Yes: 80%
- No: 20%
Supermarkets instead of luxury goods stores and shopping malls; island campsites instead of Golden Bauhinia Square and The Peak - the tastes of mainland "golden week" visitors have changed radically as the gloss wears off traditional attractions.
While the usual venues drew smaller crowds on the second day of the annual national holiday yesterday, mainlanders were a strong presence among people flocking to rural destinations such as Sai Kung and the outlying islands of Lantau and Cheung Chau.
And those who did frequent shopping areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay were looking for something different from the designer brands that they say have become commonplace at home.
"We don't like handbags from luxurious brands like LV any more," Guangzhou tourist Ivy Wong said. "We'd rather chose less famous brands with pretty designs. People everywhere are carrying famous brands."
Shopping in Causeway Bay, she spent HK$5,000 on a bottle of face-mask fluid and a bottle of facial serum, both containing 24-carat gold.
In southern Lantau meanwhile, many of the 200 tents at Pui O campsite and the popular nearby beach had been pitched by mainlanders.
"We've been to all the ordinary tourist attractions," said 8Linda Wang, who came to Hong Kong on Saturday with friends from Guangdong. "There is a nice beach, shower, toilet, barbecue pit and everything. It's a perfect place for camping, so we come here to experience life."
On Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui - site of a cluster of luxury brand stores once popular with mainlanders - business was far from brisk.
"It's much quieter than before," cruise ticket saleswoman Ann Choi said. "In previous holidays like this, the road used to be so crowded that it was difficult to get through," she said.
Boutique brand representative Jody Chan, handing out promotional items on Canton Road, said she had gone to Sai Kung in the morning and found it "flooded with tourists".
Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said visiting families wanted to experience nature.
"Some have come to Hong Kong many times and have already been to popular spots like Golden Bauhinia Square. They want to experience local culture and would look for new places like the islands."
The council's executive director, Joseph Tung Yao-chung, said the main increase in mainland tourists this year was in individual travellers, with the number of tours little changed.
For mainlander Ms Cai, the main attraction was a supermarket near the border in Fan Ling where she shopped for milk powder and found it a little cheaper than at home.
"I don't know if the milk powder sold in Shenzhen was really from Hong Kong, as the shops claimed," the 30-year-old civil servant said.
The suppliers to those stores, parallel traders who angered locals by clogging railway stations and pushing up prices, were scarce yesterday save for a group of about six outside Mong Kok East station who stuffed cans of baby milk powder into bags before boarding a train for Lo Wu.
Shepherding a group from Xinjiang around Bauhinia Square, guide Mendy Chan said business had dropped by 40 per cent compared to last year.
Tourists were also among the crowds who gathered at the Culture Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and the new government headquarters in Admiralty to watch the 23-minute fireworks show over Victoria Harbour. Police expected 250,000 people to watch.
In Macau, thousands of mainlanders took more traditional routes to famous tourist spots such as St Paul's Cathedral and the Largo do Senado.
Office worker Gloria Wu, 24, said she planned to walk past St Paul's, "but now I don't want to go near there because there are too many people", she said.
Some campers at Pui O were unimpressed with the mainlanders' behaviour, accusing them of spitting and using utensils belonging to others.
"We welcome all camping lovers, no matter who they are, but please obey the rules," said retiree Mr Wong.