72 hours in Hong Kong to welcome the Year of the Pig

NO PLACE celebrates Chinese New Year with as much ardour, glamour, and flavour as Hong Kong. For nothing shy of a week, a buoyant mood pervades the city, as the locals engage in much merrymaking and a variety of festive events, from a headline-worthy night parade to a signature fireworks display, fragrant flower markets, temple visits and the ever-popular horse races.

Filipino travelers who would like to celebrate Chinese New Year like a local can look forward to spending 72 hours in this top tourist destination at the beginning of the Year of the Pig to experience its colourful, atmospheric festive culture to its fullest.

Day 1 – The day before Chinese New Year (Monday, February 4, 2019)

Rub shoulders with the locals at a flower market

Arrive in Hong Kong before the Year of the Dog ends to catch one of the convivial flower markets in the city, where locals shop for seasonal flowers and plants that symbolize different well wishes, such as cherry blossoms that are believed to improve personal, particularly romantic, relationships, and water bamboos which are said to bring wealth. Find also at the fairs creative products and delicacies that truly reflect the unique local culture. For a fully-fledged experience, visit Victoria Park or Fa Hui Park, two of the biggest and most popular flower markets which are packed with people in the evening.

What: Flower markets

Where and when: Fai Hui Park, Mong Kok, 7 a.m. on February 4 to 7 a.m. on February 5

Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, 8am on 4 February to 8am on 5 February

Day 2 – The first day of Chinese New Year (Tuesday, February 5, 2019,)

Start the New Year with a spiritual walk and a healthy lunch

Many locals like to go hiking on the first day of Chinese New Year, as climbing uphill signifies progress in life. The perfect place to go for such a walk is Lantau Island, home to the world’s tallest sitting Buddha statue built outdoor. Start the spiritual journey by taking the cable car from Tung Chung to marvel at views of lush green and the sea along the way. Stop at Ngong Ping Village to visit the “Good Luck Garden”, before sampling Chinese vegetarian dishes at Po Lin Monastery. Do take time to admire the Big Buddha next to the temple.

What: An enlightening experience and a traditional vegetarian meal

Where: Lantau Island – Ngong Ping Village, Po Lin Monastery, Big Buddha

Join the biggest Chinese New Year soiree in town

Head over to Tsim Sha Tsui early to secure a spot for viewing the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade, a signature event that began in 1996. As the evening approaches, roving performers begin to emerge along the parade route starting from 6 p.m., before dazzling floats including those by Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park Hong Kong as well as ebullient dancers, acrobats and other performers from around the world take over the major roads and fill the district with joyful commotion. Paid spectator seats are also available on a first-come, first-served basis for those who want to enjoy the extravaganza at the starting point next to the iconic Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

What: Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade

Where: Tsim Sha Tsui, running through Canton Road, Haiphong Road and Nathan Road

When: 8 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.

Day 3 – The second day of Chinese New Year (Wednesday, February 6, 2019)

Make a wish and aim high

Venture to the New Territories for some morning fresh air and try placard throwing at the Hong Kong Well-wishing Festival in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po. Initially a tradition of the village, it gradually came to attract people from across the city. Buy a placard, which is tied to an orange, write your wishes on it, and throw it at the imitation Wishing Tree. The higher the placard hangs, the greater chance for the wishes to come true. The floats from the International Chinese New Year Night Parade are also on display until 19 February 2019.

What: Hong Kong Well-wishing Festival 2019

Where: Lam Tsuen Wishing Square, Lam Tsuen, Tai Po

When: 8:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Feast your eyes on a different type of “flower”

Firework, or literally “smoke flower” in Cantonese, is an integral part of festive celebrations in Hong Kong. For many years running, a fireworks display is staged above Victoria Harbour on the second day of Chinese New Year. The about 30-minute spectacle can be best viewed for free along the harbourfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, or ifc in Central. It is also a good idea to enjoy dinner at the same time at restaurants overlooking the harbour.

What: Lunar New Year Fireworks Display

Where: Victoria Harbour

When: 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Day 4 – The third day of Chinese New Year (Thursday, February 7, 2019)

Spin the windmill and turn your fortune around

Paying respect to the deities is a customary practice among the locals, especially the older generation. For a glimpse into this tradition, visit Che Kung Temple in Tai Wai, which attracts crowds of avid worshippers every year around this time. Try “Kau Chim,” or fortune stick drawing, to see what fortune awaits in the Year of the Pig. Remember to spin the temple’s famous copper windmill clockwise to summon good luck in the New Year.

Get an adrenaline rush at the city’s popular sporting event

From Che Kung Temple, take the MTR East Rail Line to arrive swiftly at the Sha Tin Racecourse for the clamorous Chinese New Year Race Day. The special races, which are the first in the Year of the Pig, provide the perfect opportunity for visitors to experience horseracing, a hugely popular activity in Hong Kong. Place a small bet to get into the mood and cheer on the jockey of your choice by shouting the number of the horse you bet on like the locals.

What: Chinese New Year Race Day

Where: Sha Tin Racecourse

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Beyond Chinese New Year

Hong Kong has a lot more to offer on top of the Chinese New Year happenings. Visitors can easily stay on for another 72 hours to more thoroughly experience what the city is famous for, most notably excellent dining and tax-free shopping. Many shops and restaurants remain open during the holiday period, while major attractions, theme parks and public transport operate as usual.

Visitors can also take a detour to Mainland China, which is conveniently connected with Hong Kong by coach, by train, by air and by sea. The recently opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link make it even easier to explore this neighbouring destination. (PR)


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