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The Quirkiest Festival of Hong Kong: Cheung Chau + Bun Festival

The Quirkiest Festival of Hong Kong: Cheung Chau + Bun Festival 56


How to get to Cheung Chau

There are ferries that service Cheung Chau – Central route  that depart from Central Pier 5, in front of IFC mall. Some run every 15 minutes past the hour, others every 45 minutes of it, everyday between 6:00 am to 12:30 midnight.  There are two types of ferries: Ordinary and Fast class.  The ordinary ferry which costs HK$ 16.80 takes 1 hour, while the fast ferry, HK$22.5, takes 45 minutes.

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Flashback to a previous HK visit:

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In December of last year, I absent mindedly hopped on the first boat I chanced upon at the Central ferry terminal ,thinking that it was headed for Tsim Sha Tsui.  I was in a rush, wasn’t reading directions, and just wanted to get back to our accommodations because I was tired. What I knew to be a 5-minute ride turned into 45 minutes.   In retrospect, when I first got on board, I already wondered why this boat looked a lot better than the one we took in the morning, but I was exhausted and didn’t care to ask further as I was just thankful to be in a nicer boat. Fifteen minutes later, it started to seem that the ride was too long. Twenty five minutes later, the city of Hong Kong  slowly faded into the distance, and all I could see aside from the sunset was an island that I had never seen before. At that point, I laughed at myself, as I honestly didn’t know then where I was headed. I asked the girl beside me, and was told this was Cheung Chau. Too bad, at that time, I didn’t have time to explore that island. I just got off the pier, walked a bit and hopped on the next boat, heading reversely for Central.

I recounted my experience to my friend Kay, who has been living in HK on a study scholarship for the past year. She said I should’ve explored, as there were things to see in Cheung Chau. This trip then, I made it a mission to intentionally visit Cheung Chau, to see for myself what was there.

May 25, 2015. How timely that the day I chose to go to this island was during the Bun Festival, which Kay says, is one of the liveliest and quirkiest festivals of Hong Kong. The Bun Festival highlight was a competition wherein  contestants climb the tower of buns and collect as much buns as they could. The one who gets the most buns, wins.  The event is held in Pak Tai Park every year, during Buddha’s birthday.

My other friend Tina and I got to the island just in time to witness the Floating Child Parade.  We wondered how they could be up there, seemingly floating, in that heat. I don’t know how the children manage to stay there that long; we ourselves merely watched for a few minutes, as we couldn’t stand the heat. We edged our way to the back end of the island, since the center was filled with people. Despite the crowds, we managed to find a quiet route to get where we would rather be.  Tina and I saw a lot of the Island; it felt like we “owned” it, as everyone else preferred to be audience to the ongoing festivities.

Our Story

Tina and I didn’t really set goals on what to see; we decided to just carry on and explore whatever the island would offer us, as it was not that big anyway. In the course of our map-less walk, we ended up in some hidden walkway down to what we thought was the beach, but it turned out to be an open area with incredible rock formations. There was no one there but a local who was fishing. Although we weren’t in proper shoe attire, we managed to scramble through the red rocks to spend a good amount of time here, just appreciating our surroundings. After a while, I started to be bitten my mosquitoes, so we left. The pathway we took didn’t look like it was meant for public use, but then again we didn’t really do anything mischievous apart from the fact that we might have trespassed, or maybe not.

As we walked, we noticed that the houses were pretty. Perhaps, we dared to surmise, the residents of this island were financially better off as they had huge houses with balconies and lawns, in contrast to tiny units in tall buildings as is the norm in HK.  We also saw bicycles here and there. We imagined it would have been nice to bike around the island, but we definitely were not skilled enough to tackle its terrain that constantly went up and down. Besides, we wouldn’t have been able to find hidden pathways if we were on a bicycle.

Sometime later, we bumped into a family in swimming attire.  We followed them, and we were led straight to the beach. Since we planned to splurge on seafood later in the day, we opted not to rent beach beds nor use the tables which would oblige us to order a minimum amount. We opted to get a drink, and used our “malongs” to lay down on the sand.

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I once read,

“A good journey begins with a blank map where you put passion behind the wheel and happiness on the end point”. 

That’s exactly what Tina and I achieved today.  We went to Cheung Chau with no maps and no expectations; we just put our passion to explore behind the wheel and we headed out to seek for happiness. We ended up where we were both happy—the beach.

We saw some Hong Kong expats playing ball around the beach, and we  enjoyed watching them. A few more minutes of watching and we would have joined them, but they were on their way out. Tina and I bonded by the beach until we realized we had to tend to our stomachs.

 

So, gone was our quiet day, as we had to return to “civilization”. Kay told us that Cheung Chau was known for seafood, so that was what we set out to do.  Walking through the city center, now less crowded, we realized that Cheung Chau had a lot of artsy bed and breakfast places, “street food” and cute food and merchandise stalls. We enjoyed walking around until we saw a tent where we saw a lot of locals eating.  We decided to eat there.

Every table we saw had oysters, so we figured that to be their specialty. So, we got ourselves oysters and rice, which was HKD 75 each. Since we only spent for transportation so far, and a drink, this dinner was accounted for in our budget.  Our bill came up to HK$ 202, after adding tax and service charge and table charge.  Despite that expense, we truly enjoyed our meal.

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Cheung Chau Bun Festival 

Luckily, just as we had finished eating, the rain poured hard. This did not stop us from staying on to watch the Bun scrambling competition. We waited in line, got our free tickets, free rain coats, and made light of the current weather situation. We were soaking wet, but of our spirits were alive.  Just so you know, the event does not start until 11pm, and they only allow people in the arena by 10pm.  At that point, we had already spent the whole day on the island. Despite our tired feet, Tina and I, now joined by another friend Kay, were persistent. Our lining up time became our bonding time.  Finally, 10pm came and they let us in. We were excited to watch and see this quirkiest festival.

On this trip, I had wanted to experience Hong Kong as the locals do, in contrast to the usual tourist’s Ocean Park, Disney Land, Peak Tram, etc., so I was really excited to witness a very local event. Just before 11pm, a public announcement was made in the Chinese language. People started to move out of the arena, and here were three girls who understood nothing, and therefore did not know what was happening. We eventually figured that they cancelled the event due to bad weather. With very sad hearts, we too, started to leave.

It was a good thing we got to witness the parade and the dragon dance earlier. All in all, we had a fun stay on this island. Wishfully, next time, I get to see the culminating event. I now know what’s in Cheung Chau.

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10 thoughts on “The Quirkiest Festival of Hong Kong: Cheung Chau + Bun Festival

  1. Whenever I think of Hong Kong, I think of chaos, cars, high rise buildings and incredible crowds. You surely managed to show that there is another side to it and deserves to be explored!

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