While Chinese were counting down the hours to the start of 2008, many Russian tourists crossed the border to join them.
Manzhouli, a city in the northeastern area of Inner Mongolia and China's largest land point of entry on the China-Russia border, embraced more than 5,000 Russian tourists on New Year's Eve, who came to listen to the bells ringing for the new year.
In the city's biggest western-food restaurants, more than 90 percent of the seats had been booked by Russians. The Russians showed up in Chinese eateries, too.
"Almost every Russian knows Chinese food, like hot pot and Beijing roasted duck," said a 34-year-old tourist from Chitinskaya, Russia.
Heilongjiang is expecting about 5,000 Russian tourists from across the Suifen River during the New Year's holiday, according to sources with the Suifen Tourism Bureau.
"The New Year's rush started several days before the holiday with an increasing number of tourist coaches passing by," said Ma Gaocheng with the Dongning Border Inspection Station. "Most tourists are traveling with their families, who wish to go shopping in border cities."
If Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang attracted Russians with proximity, the southernmost province of Hainan won others over with its sunshine and tropical seacoast.
Last week saw nearly 10,000 Russian tourists flowing into Sanya city, 30 percent up from same period last year, said an official with the Sanya Tourism Bureau.
The official noted that most of the tourists were from Moscow, St. Petersburg and some Far Eastern cities.
"Our tourism market is far from saturated and we are expecting more Russian tourists," he add.
(Xinhua News Agency January 1, 2008)