A unique tradition with a long and colourful history, the annual Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most eagerly anticipated dates in the Hong Kong calendar. To mark this year’s festivities on 30 May, The Peninsula Hong Kong is giving guests the opportunity to visit the centuries-old fishing village of Tai O and witness one of the territory’s most famous and culturally significant Dragon Boat Festival celebrations first-hand.
With origins that stretch back more than 2,000 years, the Dragon Boat Festival holds a special place in Chinese culture, particularly in Hong Kong, where the world-famous International Dragon Boat Races have added a dynamic sporting edge to the occasion since 1976. But while the races are undoubtedly an exhilarating spectacle, The Peninsula is offering visitors the chance to experience a Dragon Boat Festival celebration that few visitors – or indeed residents – ever get to see.
Often referred to as the “Venice of Hong Kong” due to the stilt houses that line its waterways, Tai O is the last traditional fishing village of its kind in Hong Kong, an impressive location to visit at any time of year. During the Dragon Boat Festival, however, the village transforms into a cornucopia of vivacious colour and becomes a hive of activity as it plays host to a traditional boat procession of Chinese Deities.
Guests will arrive at Tai O at 9 am for the celebrations, after departing The Peninsula at 7:30 am, and head straight for the historic Hau Wong Temple to witness the villagers welcoming the deities and transferring them onto a small vessel attached to the Dragon Boat. From there, the tour continues to Guan Yu Temple before the main event: viewing the Dragon Boat parade from a traditional stilt house on the water front, as the procession winds through the water channels.
Performed annually for generations, this historic ritual is enacted by the local people to pray for peace and to pacify the wandering water ghosts. As well as taking in the festivities from an ideal vantage point, a local expert is on hand to decode the meaning of each element of the ritual, enabling Peninsula guests to learn about the significance of the various parts of the ceremony and how each tradition connects to the fishing heritage of the local community.
After the festivities conclude, guests will have the chance to explore Tai O further, with a walking tour that takes in some of the village’s oldest temples and its famous stilt houses, as well as the sights and scents of its culinary culture. In addition to learning how the village’s famous salted fish and shrimp paste are made, guests will have the chance to sample Tai O’s coal-fired Chiu Chow dumplings, king-sized fish balls and Chinese donuts, and then enjoy lunch at a local Shanghainese restaurant before returning to The Peninsula Hong Kong.
About Tai O
Situated on the northwest coast of Lantau, Hong Kong’s largest island, Tai O has a long and rich history as an important fishing and trading port for southern China. Although much sleepier today, the village remains ever popular with visitors thanks to its picturesque surroundings, stilt houses and excellent seafood. Tai O is also known for a rare type of pink dolphin that inhabits the nearby waters, and which can often be spotted by taking a sightseeing boat from the harbour.
The Dragon Boat Festival Experience is conducted in both English and Cantonese and is priced at HK$ 480 (approx £48) per person, and is bookable via The Peninsula Hong Kong’s Guest Relations on firstname.lastname@example.org. Participating guests must be at least five years old.