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Editor"s note: As Chinese embrace Spring Festival, China Daily will present a series of stories on how people greet the new year and pursue a better life.
On a sunny but cold morning, Ma De began his journey home, by motorcycle, for a Spring Festival family reunion.
It was expected to take Ma, who left on Thursday, nearly 10 hours to travel from Foshan, Guangdong province, where he has been working in a hardware factory for eight years, to his hometown in Nanping county in the neighboring Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
"It is difficult to buy a train ticket," said Ma, who is 47. "I have traveled home for this occasion by driving a motorcycle for several years."
Ma was among hundreds of migrant workers employed in the Pearl River Delta who ride motorcycles back to their hometowns in Hunan, Guizhou and Fujian provinces as well as Guangxi.
According to the local transportation authority, more than 10,000 migrant workers choose to begin their journeys home each year by riding motorcycles from Guangdong.
"Luckily, it was not a rainy day," said Ma.
Temperatures have dropped sharply in much of southern China since last weekend, and the cold snap was expected to continue.
However, the generosity of others helped warm the motorcyclists" journey on Thursday, the start of the annual rush for Spring Festival, which begins on Feb 16 this year and is an important occasion for family reunions.
The motorcyclists were provided with free gas and express delivery of their baggage.
Sinopec Guangdong Oil Products Co teamed up with several organizations to offer the free gas and other services to the first 10,000 riders. More than 230 gas stations in Guangdong and Guangxi were to provide the service for riders, according to the company.
"The service helps reduce costs during the journey," said Ma, who was at the Longshan gas station in Shunde district of Foshan.
Ma had already sent his packages home, thanks to the free express service provided by China Post"s EMS.
Chen Chengmin, Sinopec Guangdong"s general manager, said the number of riders has declined in recent years.
"The income of workers has increased steadily. Some workers have bought high-speed train tickets, and some have even bought cars," said Chen.