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Best Places to View Dragon Boat Racing in Hong Kong

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Get a taste of the unique cultural experience in Hong Kong this June 7th on Dragon Boat Festival! Feast your eyes upon the views, taking in the delectable aroma of sticky rice dumplings filling the air, glances into joyous family gatherings and, of course, colourful events involving energetic drumming and characteristic dragon boat races that vividly paint the sea.

Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong is undoubtedly a wonderful time for celebration… but what is it and where does it originate from? Gift Something Hong Kong is here to give you the low-down.

What is Dragon Boat Festival?

Dragon Boat Festival dates back to the 3rd century. It usually takes place either in May or June and is best known for its robust performances in dragon boat racing. You can see teams of paddlers from all around the globe coming together, donning colourful clothing, and racing their long narrow decorated boats across the sea to the finish line, accompanied by the strong, passionate beat of the drum.

According to one popular legend, passed down through many generations, Dragon Boat Festival has its origins in an elderly loyal and noble poet, scholar and minister named Qu Yuan. After being exiled due to the slandering of corrupt ministers, Qu Yuan returned to his home time. There, he fell into depression and drowned himself by jumping in the river in martyrdom for his deeply beloved but falling motherland.

The locals tried their best to find and rescue Qu Yuan, paddling their boats into the river and banging drums and gongs to scare away anything that might harm the minister. They also brought offerings of rice to calm the old man’s spirit and to offer the fish so that Qu Yuan’s body would not be devoured. Today, certain aspects of the legend, such as the long boats, the drumming and the rice offerings are utilised in the celebrations to commemorate the noble death of this man.

What is Dragon Boat Racing?

A dragon boat is a long and narrow boat decorated with a Chinese dragon head and tail with printed scales. During the races, the different teams paddle furiously to the beat of a drum, providing spectators with an exciting and colourful performance. The first team to reach the finish line wins.

When and Where to see Dragon Boat Racing

Travelling with locals is a great way to get you in touch with the culture, but if you’re planning to go yourself, here is a travel guide on where and when best to watch the races.

The best time to watch is on the very day of Dragon Boat Festival, this year being June 7th.

Stanley: You can watch the Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships in Stanley Main Beach that day at around 8am to approximately 5pm. The races here are among the most remarkable, so it will be very crowded. Make sure you get there early, probably 2-3 hours before the race, wear sun protection (hats, sunglasses, lotion) and to keep hydrated. It is known that Dragon Boat Festival is often on a very hot day. To get to Stanley, take bus 6, 6A, 6X, or 260 from Exchange Square Bus Terminus in Central.

Central: Another opportunity to see the race is to attend the Dragon Boat Carnival or the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races 2019. It is a 3-day event and will held in Central Harbourfront on 14-16 June. You can get there via the following paths:

  • MTR Admiralty Station, go through Exit A and walk approximately 10 minutes
  • MTR Central Station, go through Exit A and walk approximately 10 minutes
  • MTR Hong Kong Station, go through Exit A2 and walk approximately 8 minutes
  • take the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central and walk approximately 2 minutes

You can also watch the races at other venues around Hong Kong, including Aberdeen, Saikung, Cheung Chau, Tai O, Sha Tin, Tai Po and Discovery Bay.

Things to do beside Dragon Boat Racing during Dragon Boat Festival If you’re not into Dragon Boat Racing, you can also partake in making a traditional festival food, zongzi (sticky rice dumplings), which can be shared among family and friends. Zongzi are made from glutinous rice and a filling, usually meat, salted egg and beans. They are wrapped in bamboo leaves and made into a triangular-based pyramid shapes and tied with plant stems, ready to be steamed.

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