So after Phil’s blog posts I thought it was about time that I said “hello”. It’s Hayley here. Together Phil and I have lots of adventures, but on the day of the dragon boat festival we decided to have our own separate adventures. Phil went out coastering (see previous post), whilst I had a more serene and relaxing day out watching the dragon boats in Sai Kung.
The history of the dragon boat festival
The dragon boat festival (Tuen Ng) is celebrated according to the Chinese calendar and was on a Saturday this year. The traditions involves eating glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leaves and watching the dragon boats compete on races across Hong Kong. The story goes that a famous poet in ancient China was accused of treason and was captured, rather than face the consequences the poet tried to commit suicide by jumping into the river. The local people raced in their boats to save the poet or in the very least collect his body so the fish didn’t eat it. They also threw rice balls into the water to encourage the fish to eat the rice rather than the poet’s body. Every year people make rice balls and compete in races.
Where in Hong Kong do competitors race in the dragon boat festivals?
The races happen all over Hong Kong with the biggest race on Stanley beach which attracts the biggest crowds. As I don’t like overly busy places and I had heard that there can be about 30,000 people at Stanley all crowded into the little beach and not really being able to see, I decided to go somewhere less well known. As there are many other races I decided to go to Sai Kung with some friends.
Watching the dragon boats in Sai Kung
We met up in Sai Kung mid morning and walked towards the pier – where the local fisherman are normally selling the fish and shellfish from their boats, but today this was for the dragonboaters to get in and out of their boats. Walking to the left of the pier there were gazebos along the waterfront where family and friends of the competitors could sit in two rows of chairs but anyone else could stand behind and still have some shade from the tents! The boats raced from out at sea parallel to the pier and back towards the waterfront. To be honest it looked like the boats where going to crash into the promenade at the end if they didn’t turn quickly, but later when we moved to the other side watching from around the corner (under the shade of a lovely big tree) we could see it was all just due to differences in the angle of perception and actually they did have enough space to stop and turn!
The boats used in the races
The boats are very long and hold two rows of people so competitors row down one side of the boat or the other, there are maybe about ten people in each row with one person at the front with a drum giving the beat to row to and one person at the back with the rudder to direct the steering of the boat. The boats are decorated to live up to their name of dragon boats and have a dragon head shaped onto the front of the boat.
Sai Kung Festival
We had a fun morning watching the races and in the afternoon there was a festival around the paper boat lake in Sai Kung with games in some tents, recycling activities in others such as making your own dragon boat out of a plastic bottle and paper and also a stage with performers. We watched some people doing some very impressive yo-yo routines where I thought the strings should have been knotted together but some how they didn’t! Also there were some little kids (maybe at 7 years old) dressed up in mini lion costumes doing a performance but they didn’t look very happy to be up there, it was such a hot day and they have a hot costume on. Afterwards they had a group photo with some adults (presumably parents and coaches), the adults looked smiley but the kids looked hot and tired! I felt sorry for them. After watching these performances, I was feeling hot too so we went to find some cool drinks in a cafe and waited for Phil to come back from his coastering before heading home.
The end of the day’s adventures
It was a fun day and good to see the Hong Kong tradition of the dragon boat races and I was glad that I hadn’t had to stand in huge crowds like they had at Stanley.
Go out and enjoy yourself but don’t feel you have to follow the crowd!