Motorhomes hit the right note in search for dream holiday

Wang Yong
A visit to a high-profile recreation vehicle show has opened the my eyes to the perfect outdoor platform to perform the guqin with friends as well as much more.
Wang Yong

Rain or shine, just to sit and play a melody in the depth of a forest for all its creatures, whether you see them or not. This has been a dream of my friends and I since we together learnt one of the world’s most ancient musical instruments about 10 years ago.

Over the past years, we have brought guqin, a seven-string zither-like instrument with a history of more than 3,000 years, with us for performances in parks and pavilions. But it is a pity that we cannot stay overnight or for several nights in the open arms of nature. Also, not all parks or pavilions are quiet enough for guqin, known for its low and lingering sound as a result of the long strings and thick layers of lacquer over the wooden boards that constitute the body of the instrument.

However, on Friday we found our dream closer to coming true. I accompanied a friend in probing the possibility of having a motorhome, or recreational vehicle, at a high-profile RV show at the Shanghai Automobile Exhibition Center in Jiading District.

Although it was my first close encounter with so many “moving homes,” my friend had been following the trend for some time and decided to buy one this year. Of about 500 RVs from the country’s top 100 manufacturers displayed at the show, he tentatively preferred one made by a Shanghai manufacturer, which can adjust indoor space from both sides of the vehicle to make for a spacious “meeting room.” Parked in a forest, this RV will become a perfect space for performing chamber music live to nature’s audience – we play in the “meeting room” while birds chirp and squirrels bark their judgment. What a harmony!

My friend and I are not the only “dreamers” of a roaming life in seamless contact with the rawer part of nature that commands awe in humans. Despite strict quarantine measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the huge parking lot for visitors at the exhibition center was almost fully occupied when I arrived at 9am as one of the “early birds.” 

So many people lined up for the show but everyone was patient in going through the complicated procedure of quarantine and verification. Admission was free, with all attendants required to register in advance with their names and phone numbers on the organizer’s online booking platform.

As we compared and studied different RVs, my friend and I happened to meet a man in his late 50s who had come all the way from Yunnan Province in southwest China simply to find a favorable model to replace his old one. 

“I have been traveling in a motorhome for about 10 years,” he told me. “I have been to Tibet (Autonomous Region), Guizhou (Province) and, of course, almost every part of Yunnan, together with my wife and grandchildren. Now I need a new RV, because the old one does not have a strong-enough driving force.” 

Asked why he didn't go to an RV show in a big city near his hometown, he shook his head: “Here in Shanghai you have all the best brands to choose from. That’s why I’m here. I hope I can find my favorite and drive it back to Yunnan.”

As a veteran traveler in a camper van, he told my friend that it’s better to have a roof window through which you could see the sky before you sleep or when you wake up in the small hours. He gave the advice as he heard my friend murmuring that a roof window would be too big and that small side windows would be enough for ventilation. 

He also suggested that a motorhome is best for a family of four or five only. 

A sales assistant from a RV factory in Jiangsu Province echoed his view. 

“An advantage of a motorhome is you have a few family members or acquaintances together,” he explained. “You know each other’s health and habits. This makes your travel a lot safer, not just freer.”

The Paper, a leading news portal based in Shanghai, reported on August 20 that motorhomes have entered “a fast lane” of growth this summer as travel agencies try to promote safer packages amid heightened public awareness of health. 

The Paper cited a leading industry source as saying that orders for motorhome travels since July have increased by 120 percent over the same period last year. During the fight against COVID-19, cross-region travel had been restricted one way or another until around this summer. 

Despite the ease of restrictions, travelers still prefer shorter and safer routes that avoid a possible meeting with large crowds. That’s where a motorhome comes in with a vengeance. According to The Paper, RVs are one of the few sub-sectors of tourism service that have registered a rare growth.

A heightened vigilance against heath hazards is only one, though important, factor fueling the unusual growth of the RV market. Fundamentally, the construction of beautiful villages and ecological corridors across the Yangtze River Delta region and many other areas will open more opportunities for people to take a vacation in the bosom of nature. According to china.com.cn, a national news portal, China had 800 camping sites for camper vans in 2017, and the number will increase to 4,000 this year.

Critics tend to focus on what they call the inadequacy of such sites and the lack of recharging equipment. But from the conversations and interviews I had on Friday, I would say the biggest concern of most consumers – mainly ordinary families – is how “green” future generations of RVs could be.

For example, can an inbuilt solar system maintain power for the vehicle's normal operation for at least 72 hours? Can an RV run on ever greener energy? If these and other questions can be answered with a firm "yes," the day will come when RVs will really roar into the fast lane of tomorrow.

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