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Dragon Boat Festival: What Is It And Where To Watch The Races

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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, and we didn’t leave you hanging (would we ever?!) because we list everything from how to get there, places to eat (because, kids) and where to let the littlest ones burn off some energy (you’re welcome). 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!).

Jump to:
Dragon Boat Festival Origins
Dragon Boat Festival Races
Dragon Boat Festival – Rice Dumplings

Editor’s note: Races will be held in accordance with government regulations and health measures and is subject to changes or cancellation in case of an escalation of the Covid-19 situation. Also note that some races have been postponed to later this year.

Read more: Where To Take Your Kids In Stanley Hong Kong

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

Stanley Dragon Boat Championships 2022

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.  Locals love Stan Cafè for artisanal pastries and croissants. The Stanley Plaza’s playground is great for the kids to run around in while you sit and sip your coffee. For lunch or dinner, book Henry’s or try Spiaggia for fine dining in a casual atmosphere at good prices.

When: Friday, 3 June, 2022, 8am to 5pm
Where: Stanley Main Beach

Sassy Mama tip: Sail to Stanley on the Aqua Luna! Take a cruise with the family on a traditional Chinese wooden boat with the iconic three red sails, embarking from Central Pier 9 or Tsim Sha Tsui Pier.

Read more: Hong Kong Junk Boat Trips: Family-Friendly Boat Rentals

The Water Parade In Tai O Fishing Village’s Dragon Boat Festival

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: Friday 3 June, 2022, 8am to 2pm
Where: Tai O Waterfront

Sassy Mama Tip: Tai O is known for its captivating sunset, stay for it but be aware that crowds there are big on holidays and weekends, so plan your transport accordingly!

Read more: Tai O Fishing Village: Family Restaurants, Hikes And More

Aberdeen Dragon Boat Races – Postponed To Sunday, 2 October, 2022

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! In terms of scale, it is the largest of its kind in Hong Kong, and one of the most significant long dragon boat races worldwide. Start your day with a walk along the promenade and stop for breakfast in any of the local restaurants and bakeries. This is a perfect place to observe the magic that is Hong Kong – where the old and new co-exist. You’ll see modern yachts next to traditional boats in the fishing village, old ladies in their sampans, and a whole lot of trading going on. Aberdeen is where one-third of Hong Kong’s fishing trade takes place. For insider info on kid-friendly restaurants and what else to do in the area, check out our neighbourhood guide to nearby Wong Chuk Hang.

When: Postponed to Sunday, 2 October, 2022, 8am to 6pm
Where: Aberdeen Promenade

Read more: Sassy Mama’s Guide To Wong Chuk Hang: Kid-Friendly Places And Things To Do

Tai Po Dragon Boat Races – Postponed To Sunday, 16 October, 2022

In line with the dragon boat festival, you can now book a full day of adventure in Tai Po to watch the dragon races comfortably in reserved seats. Visit the Hong Kong Heritage Museum (an absolute hit with the kids!), and check out the Man Mo Temple all in one awesome day.

When: Postponed to Sunday 16 October, 2022, 8:30am to 1pm
Where: Tai Po Waterfront Park

Sassy Mama tip: Local fare is a must-try in Tai Po! Our trustworthy born-and-raised Tai Po source recommends Chan Hon Kee for clay pot rice, rice rolls and congee, Sam Dor for deep-fried chicken and 亞婆豆腐花 (Grandma’s Pudding) for tofu pudding to die for. Choi’s Noodle Shop (look out for this signage: 蔡潤記) for fishball noodles, beef brisket noodles and if you can take spicy, add its famous chilli oil!

Read more: Sassy Mama Family Field Trips: Hong Kong Heritage Museum

Sai Kung Dragon Boat Festival – Provisional Date Thursday, 8 September, 2022

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. For detailed info on cafes, restaurants, things to do in Sai Kung, be sure to read our neighbourhood guide to Sai Kung.

When: Provisional Date Thursday, 8 September, 2022, 8am to 1:30 pm
Where: Sai Kung Town Waterfront

Read more: Sai Kung Neighbourhood Guide For Families In Hong Kong

dragon boat festival hong kong rice dumplings

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.

Read more: Hong Kong Dim Sum Restaurants: Our Favourite Yum Cha Spots To Take The Kids

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May, 2018 by Czarina Sunga and was most recently updated in May, 2022 by Fashila Kanakka.

  Featured image courtesy of Tai O Fei Mao via Facebook, image 1 courtesy of Tai O Fei Mao via Facebook, image 2 courtesy of Aberdeen Dragon Boat via Facebook, image 3 courtesy of Island Shangri-La.

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