Next week marks the famous Dragon Boat festival in Hong Kong. Called Tuen Ng in Chinese, this festival always falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, and has been taking place since as far back as the third century.
While this festival has a bit of a long history, it is mainly known for its energetic and colorful dragon boat races, where teams of 22 row their hearts out to the beat of a drum, as they race to the finish line.
This has always been a favorite holiday for many Chinese, and many will line the waterways and make bets on the racers.
Unfortunately this is the day we’ll be leaving Hong Kong, but many tourists come to visit for this special event as well. Most tourists who come expect to see the dragon boat races everywhere, which they are, sort of. There will be quite a few going on starting from that day, but they’re actually quite spread out from each other and a bit further out, so they can be hard to find.
That means you’ll really just need to pick one race and commit to it, otherwise if you try to visit multiple, you’ll end up not really seeing anything. Especially because any place you go to, you’ll need to get there early as it will be very crowded.
Here are some of the best dragon boat races in Hong Kong:
SunLife Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships
If you were to ask most Hong Kongers where to go watch dragon boat races, most people would probably direct you to Stanley. The races at Stanley are some of the most prominent dragon boat races in the world and there are over 200 teams from all across the globe who participate. Last year we were surprised to see teams from US universities in California and even Michigan who had come to take part in the action.
If you want to go to Stanley, plan to go early as each year over 30,000 people visit this event. Because of the mass influx of people, they set up special transportation just for this event.
Where: Stanley Main Beach
When: June 2nd, 2014; 8am-5pm
Tai O Dragon Boat Festival
The Tai O Dragon Boat Festival is unique because each year they hold a large parade. Tai O, located on Lantau Island, is a small fishing village built on traditional stilt houses. Temple deities are put in decorated sampan boats and then pulled by paddlers in dragon boats through the floating villages.
After the parade, dragon boat races commence as a form of entertainment for the gods as the deities are returned to their temples.
Where: Tai O Village
When: June 2, 2014; 8am-2pm
Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Carnival
Another top-rated event in Hong Kong is the Dragon Boat Carnival. For three days there will be boat races for spectators to enjoy, as well as other live entertainment, such as live bands and performers, which is what gives it the carnival-like atmosphere.
The races feature teams from all over the world, including name brand-sponsored teams (think Walt Disney or Mattel), all hoping to win the grand tournament. This event also coincides with the popular San Miguel Beer Festival, so you can kick back and watch the races while enjoying an ice-cold beer.
Where: Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade
When: June 6-8 2014; 8am-6pm
Cheung Chau Dragon Boat Festival
Cheung Chau Island may be a bit further out to get to, but the atmosphere of this fishing village is perfect for dragon boat races. Known for its quirky Bun Festival, you can expect plenty of locals to be taking part in traditional festivities for the Dragon Boat Festival as well.
To get there, just hop on a ferry from Central Pier #5 as ferry depart every 30 minutes.
Where: Cheung Chau Typhoon Shelter
When: June 2, 2014; 8am-4pm
Sai Kung Dragon Boat Festival
Located in the New Territories, Sai Kung is known as a place for fresh seafood and adventure. Normally Sai Kung is where you would go for any sort of boating activity such as squid fishing or even relaxing on a junk, so it only makes sense that dragon boat races would be popular here as well.
The surrounding town will also be set up for the festival with lots of yummy street food and vendors, making it a fun atmosphere to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival
Where: Sai Kung Waterfront
When: June 2nd, 2014; 8am-6pm