Why you should go to Hong Kong….for a bun festival
Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities in the world.
I spent 6 months living in Hong Kong in 2009 and found so many reasons to love this dynamic city.
Unfortunately, many tourists only have enough time to take in the major sights: walking through the hustle and bustle of Mong Kok’s crowded markets, seeing the breathtaking Central skyline at night from the deck of the Star Ferry, and shopping in the ritzy shops of Causeway Bay.
But Hong Kong has so much more to offer.
Some of my favorite memories from Hong Kong came from exploring its less well known natural side:
I liked to spend lazy afternoons on the pretty beaches of Shek O, a small town on the far end of Hong Kong Island that feels a million miles away from the frantic energy most people associate with Hong Kong.
On clear days, I would take the MTR subway all the way to the end of the Island Line to hike the Dragon’s Back trail that follows beautiful ridge lines through the surprisingly green forests and coasts on the back side of Hong Kong Island.
But one of the most exciting sights that Hong Kong has to offer involves…grown men climbing on a giant tower of buns.
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival
Cheung Chau is a sleepy outer island on the fringes of Hong Kong’s territory, known mostly for its quaint fishing villages and narrow lanes.
However every May, this little island is transformed by a tradition unlike any other: the Cheung Chau Bun Festival.
While this festival had its origins in offering thanks to local deities for good fishing and safety from pirates, it has since turned into a celebration of that great culinary tradition: the steamed bun.
For an entire week Cheung Chau is taken over by thousands upon thousands of buns, many of which go into the huge bun towers that are constructed on the island.
While these bun towers are a sight to see, undoubtedly the highlight of the Bun Festival is the bun snatching race that happens on the final night!
For the race, a single bun tower is erected and 4-5 racers try to climb to the top of the tower as fast as they can.
There is nothing quite so thrilling, nor quite so strange, as cheering for grown men climbing up a tower made out of buns!
I was too caught up in the sheer theatrics of it all, so I was unable to get many photos of the race.
But here is a youtube video that will give you a taste (please excuse the terrible pun) of what the Bun Festival looks like:
This is what I love about traveling
I had no idea the Cheung Chau Bun Festival even existed before a friend told me about it. We decided to go on a lark and I still look back on it as one of my fondest travel memories.
Going to events like the Cheung Chau Bun Festival is what I love most about traveling: finding the little unexpected moments or small local discoveries that do not show up in guidebooks or “top 10″ lists.
Getting to Cheung Chau
Getting to Cheung Chau by ferry from Hong Kong Island is both easy and affordable.
Basic but comfortable ferries operate every day and leave every 30 minutes for Cheung Chau (ferry schedule) from the Central Pier on Hong Kong Island, which is easily accessible via MTR subway, bus, or taxi.
The ordinary ferry takes 60 minutes to reach Cheung Chau.
On regular days, a round-trip ticket costs 25 HKD, which is the equivalent of only $3.25! During holidays, such as the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, the price climbs to 37 HKD round-trip, which is still the equivalent of only $4.75.
There is also a fast ferry that gets to Cheung Chau in 40 minutes instead of 60. However, the fast ferry costs twice as much as the ordinary ferry and is not worth it in my opinion.
Best of all, during the Bun Festival taking the ferry is an experience in itself!
Getting to Cheung Chau is fine since there are frequent departures all throughout the day.
However, trying to get back on the boat after the bun snatching race is over is absolute chaos, with thousands of people trying to get on the first boat available.
Jammed between the lines of people shuffling onto the boats and the metal bars erected to separate the crowd, my friend and I looked at each other and quickly agreed that the Cheung Chau Bun Festival would not be something we forget any time soon!
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