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The Joy of Inefficiency: Ticket Stubs in China

While a trip to a major tourist attraction is a costly splurge for many tourists sites around the globe, at least in China a tourist is still given a proper ticket.

Tourist sites in China are not cheap. Compared with daily living costs, a trip to a major tourist attraction is a costly splurge. While the same can be said for many tourists sites around the globe and especially in Australia, at least in China a tourist is still given a proper ticket. A big bright piece of cardboard that someone, initially anyway, had to sit down and design.

This is quite different to tickets in Australia. Whether it’s the Australian Open, a Pavement gig, or countless other scenic lighthouses and local spots of worthy note. Invariably, these all gave in exchange for my money a boring white piece of paper with bar code somewhere in the corner. Every ticket the same, designed for speed and efficiency with nothing distinguishing it from the previous ticket from the previous place or event. These future pieces of rubbish are designed to be automatically generated and emailed out with minimal fuss or human interaction. Streamlining the experience and maximizing the profit. This worship of the efficient is what truly kills the spirit.

The allure of travel is the enjoyment of the inefficient, whether it’s hand painted movie posters in India, exotic metro stations in Tashkent, or the beautiful clunky buildings of Melbourne. These things are made with an eye on craftsmanship and design, which is exactly what the traveler is looking for in their wanderings.

When I look back on my notebooks these tickets will give me a physical connection that links back to my memories. Similar to how visa stamps mark a time and place in one’s life, I can look back at these bits of colourful paper and remember the amazing Longmen grottoes or the tour guide who shoved me at the Terracotta warriors.

Even the act of purchasing these tickets and all the complications that came along with them is something that won’t be forgotten. These trinkets are a hard earned reward for all the lining up, the pushing and the confusion. As China modernizes, the ticketing system will probably modernize as well, consigning paper tickets to a place in the museum next to landline telephones and steam engines. That’s alright. Even as the traveler seeks out the inefficient and the unique, they can’t escape the future.

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Filed under: China, Culture and Society

About the Author:

Lawrence Hamilton is a freelance journalist focusing on South Asian security situations and border disputes. has written 51 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • VagabondJourney January 6, 2015, 3:02 am

    Interesting position here. I have to admit that I haven’t thought about this that way before. It’s true, in a world where efficient, mass production is fast becoming the standard, there is a new appreciation for things that are done with a large amount of time and effort that does not necessarily have anything to do with how they function practically. It’s interesting, in the commercial drive to be more efficient, it made the polar opposite a commodity of sorts. It is interesting to watch this global reaction against mass-production and the rise of artisan industries again.

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