Chinese globetrotter shares his coronavirus diary after getting stuck on a beautiful island in the Republic of Seychelles
Published: May 19, 2020 06:03 PM

Yang Zhouhu with his mother and nephew Photo: Courtey of Yang Zhouhu

Having traveled to more than 100 countries, Yang Zhouhu, a globetrotter from Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, never expected that he would get stuck with his family on a beautiful island for more than four months.

"I have encountered many difficulties during my trips and I handled them all well, but this time, things were out of my control," Yang told the Global Times, sounding rather defeated. 

Unexpected stay

On January 16, Yang took his mother, older sister and nephew on a tour of La Digue, the third-largest island in the Republic of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, to celebrate a special Chinese New Year. 

However, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, international flights leaving the island were gradually cancelled. And despite his efforts to change tickets several times, Yang and his family were still unable to book a flight out.  Finally the airport was closed down in late March.

"We planned to stay here for two weeks, but till now, it has been almost four months. Our expenses have alreadyovertaken my budget," Yang said, noting that constant worries and the fact that she misses her other family members back in China have made it difficult for his mother to sleep well. 

Thankfully, the landlord of the place they are staying has given them a discount on rent to help them alleviate their suffering. 

"Rent for this house is normally 90,000 yuan ($12,000) per month, but now it is 12,000 yuan for a month. I think the landlord and I are trying to understand and support each other during this  trying period of time," Yang said.

He noted that the pandemic has been a huge blow to the country's economy. 

"Seventy percent of the island's economy relies on the tourism industry. Because of the pandemic, this scenic paradise has lost a huge number of tourists, which has also caused the local currency to depreciate."

Many of the foreign waiters have been laid off since 90 percent of the local hotels have been shut down. 

"I met a waiter from Bangladesh, and he told me his salary has been decreamed by 30 percent due to the depreciation of local currency. But despite this, he still hopes to stay because his entire family needs his financial support," Yang said. He noted that the best hotel on the island used to charge 5,000 yuan per person a night, but has now dropped that price to 400 yuan. Meanwhile, the ferry that used to transport 200 people at a time has only about 10 passengers now. 

Local measures

The shrinking economy has impacted not only foreign employees, but also locals. Yang said that the government had to step in and begin issuing a basic living allowance to locals due to the pandemic. Yang did note, however, that locals' love of singing and dancing have helped them remain positive amid the crisis.

Yang said the local government has implemented a curfew that starts at 7 pm every day. Additionally, public gatherings of more than four people have been banned and the government strongly recommends that people stay home. 

From what Yang has seen, most citizens have been obeying the rules. They enjoy holding parties at home in their yards or by their swimming pools, singing and dancing to loud music. Yang said their joyful outlook has helped his family keep their spirits up. 

The island where Yang is staying has not had any confirmed cases of the virus yet, while all the patients on the nation's largest island have been treated and released from the hospital. More good news, there have been no new confirmed cases for the past 48 consecutive days.

"I usually go to the supermarket once a week. Only five people are allowed to enter and everyone else has to wait outside staying at least one meter away fromone another. The police are very nice. They ask me where I am going and tell me to be careful."

Yang said he and his family are the only Chinese family stuck on the island along with more than 10 tourists from the European and African countries including Austria, France, Germany and Tanzania. 

"We live very close, and talk or chat sometimes. Some of my European fellows have complimented the highly effective measures taken by the Chinese government to control the virus, while expressing concern for the situation in Europe as they don't think the pandemic can be controlled within just two months as in China," Yang said, adding that they have come to better understand Chinese culture through their conversations with him and have expressed a desire to pay a visit to the country some day. 

Yang Zhouhu and his nephew Photo: Courtey of Yang Zhouhu

Peace and love

During his time on the island, Yang has been sharing videos of his life on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo and TikTok. Unexpectedly, this has led to him becoming something of an internet celebrity. On TikTok, Yang has 7,072 followers and 24,000 likes.

He seems to have gone from being a tourist to the island to its ambassador from China as many Chinese netizens constantly ask him what it is like traveling around the Seychelles archipelago. He has also become a local celebrity after being interviewed by local media. 

"When I walk on the road, locals often come over and say they liked my interview," Yang said with a smile. 

Some Chinese netizens have remarked that they are envious of him since he gets to live in paradise at such a cheap price. However, Yang said that he and his family desperately want to return to China.

"My mood is like a roller coaster that goes up and down due to the constant changes of flight information. I have developed a habit of checking flights every two hours," Yang said. 

Yang also thanked the Chinese embassy for sending them medical supplies and Chinese food such as face masks, Chinese medicine and some hotpot condiment.

"They have helped us check international flights and call us twice a week to check up on us. We were very touched when they told us that they wanted to give us some PPE, which we couldn't easily get when we go back."

Yang said that this special trip has allowed him to spend more time with his family and has made him very thankful for the life he has. 

"I have become calmer and stronger through this experience. I plan to focus on operating my media accounts to share my travel diaries. For now, I just want to have traditional Chongqing hot pot when I returned to my hometown," Yang said.