How well do you know the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival? Here’s your guide to the festivities and an action-packed day watching the Dragon Boat races with the kids.
With heart-pumping races and colourful festivities surrounding the Dragon Boat Festival, you can’t live in Hong Kong without witnessing this event at least once. We’ve outlined the major races happening this year – from energetic races in Stanley to religious parades in the middle of traditional stilt houses in Tai O, here’s the lowdown for a guaranteed exciting day out with the kids. Also, to truly enjoy the festivities like a local, be sure to get your hands on some rice dumplings (yes, we’ve listed where to get them too!).
The Origins Of The Dragon Boat Festival
The Tuen Ng Festival’s tragic roots trace back to the suicide of Chinese scholar Qu Yuan as a protest to the government 2,000 years ago by drowning himself. The locals tried to save him by furiously paddling down the river and by tossing zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) to the water as an offering while beating drums loudly to ward off evil spirits. Qu Yuan wasn’t saved.
Despite the sad ending, the Chinese commemorate his death through the Dragon Boat Festival, which has now become a modern international sport with a worldwide audience and is definitely a fun day out for the family.
Where To Watch The Dragon Boat Festival Races in 2022
Sun Life Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships 2023
Get psyched as the drumbeat sounds begin and witness this sleepy seaside village on the south host one of the world’s most spectacular dragon racing events. Make a day of it by heading there early in the morning, and go for breakfast at any of the many bustling waterfront cafès.
When: Thursday, 22 June, 8am to 5pm
Where: Stanley Main Beach
Tai O Dragon Boat Water Parade & Race
Observe a religious tradition called “Deities Parade” where members of the three fishermen associations in Tai O load deity images to small boats towed by three dragon boats. Witness the boats travel through various water channels as stilt house residents burn incense when the deities pass by, offering burning (fa yi) for the ghosts in the water and for blessing of the deities. Fast-paced dragon boat races are also held during the day.
Make it a day trip! Tai O is known as one of the last few remaining fishing villages in Hong Kong. The historical south side of Lantau retains its unique character with many points of interest such as crisscrossing stilt houses, ancient temples, the Tai O infinity pool, a rock formation called General Stone, and, always a fave, pink dolphins. With so much to see, a fun-filled day trip is sure to be had!
When: Thursday, 22 June, 8am to 2pm
Where: Tai O Market Street Bridge
Aberdeen Dragon Boat Races
What sets the Aberdeen Dragon Boat Race apart from the others is the use of “long boats” which are 90 feet long, with 48 paddlers seated in 24 rows of two; double the size of the medium boats commonly seen in other races!
When: Thursday, 22 June, 8am to 6pm
Where: Aberdeen Promenade/Aberdeen West Typhoon Shelter
Tai Po Dragon Boat Race
Catch the dragon boat festival at the Tai Po Waterfront and then visit the Hong Kong Heritage Museum (an absolute hit with the kids!), and check out the Man Mo Temple all in one awesome day. The Waterfront Park makes for a great picnic too!
When: Thursday, 22 June, 8:30am 1pm
Where: Tai Po Waterfront Promenade
Sai Kung Dragon Boat Festival
Another excellent place to witness some gripping dragon boat racing is in family favourite Sai Kung. The races happen in the morning and the whole town will be full of festivities afterwards. Go early and feast alfresco in many seafood restaurants along the promenade.
When: Thursday, 22 June, 8am to 1:30pm
Where: Sai Kung Town Waterfront
Cheung Chau Dragon Boat Race
Having welcomed the Cheung Chau Bun Festival after a pandemic hiatus, the Cheung Chau Dragon Boat race will be equally electrifying and will see flocks of crowds (prepare for a long line for the ferry from Central!). Tune in to our neighbourhood guide for the ins and outs of what to do in your day trip.
When: Thursday, 22 June, 10am to 4pm
Where: Cheung Chau Typhoon Shelter
Sha Tin Dragon Boat Race
One of the largest Dragon Boat races in the city, the Sha Tin one gives viewers a clear vantage point to take in all the action. Get there early and grab a nice spot by the promenade to catch the race along the Shing Mun River.
When: Thursday, 22 June, 8am to 1pm
Where: Shing Mun River
Where To Get Dragon Boat Festival Rice Dumplings In Hong Kong
A number of Hong Kong hotels and restaurants are offering traditional rice dumplings to mark this year’s Dragon Boat Festival, each one coming in a variety of fillings.
- Chilli Fagara – Place your orders for the Dragon Boat Zhong Zi or the Dragon Boat Zhong Zi, Plus Ma or La Sauce Set. www.chillifagara.com
- The Peninsula – “Zongzi” glutinous rice dumplings as well as zongzi-shaped cookies filled with salted egg yolk or jasmine tea. www.peninsulaboutique.com
- The Ritz-Carlton – Deluxe Rice Dumplings Set with an exquisite new packaging, perfect for gifting. www.ritzcarltonhkshop.com
- Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong – Debuting its first ever rice dumplings in three different flavours, with 25% off at its eShop. Call 2802 8888 to place orders.
- Nam Fong at Le Méridien Hong Kong – Two flavours of glutinous rice dumplings for Dragon Boat Festival. lemeridienhkshop.com
Editor’s Note: “Dragon Boat Festival: What Is It And Where To Watch The Races” was originally published by Czarina Sunga and was most recently updated in June 2023 by Fashila Kanakka.