Leave it to Asia's world city - Hong Kong - to turn an ancient Chinese festival into a modern sport, an international party and one of the hottest events of the year - the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival.
The Dragon Boat Festival has its origins in a popular legend about the old man Qu Yuan, an official that was so disappointed in his country's government that he drowned himself in protest by jumping in the river. According to the legend, locals rushed to the site, paddling on their boats and banging drums, gongs and everything they could find to frighten away anything that might harm Qu Yuan. Despite their efforts to rescue him, Qu Yuan drowned, so, with the aim of calming the old man's spirit, locals also brought offerings of rice.
The pilgrimage with the long boats, the drumming and the rice became a Chinese tradition, which consists of re-enacting the race to Qu Yuan and has evolved into massive and lively events and the dragon boat races and competitions that characterize the festival of today. This event goes as far back as the third century and it takes place on the fifth day of the fifth Lunar month, normally in May or June.
The tradition has become an international event that attracts thousands of merrymakers, spectators and competitors every year to the stunning Victoria Harbour. While athletes compete in the races, others watch the dragon-shaped human-powered water crafts, or party hard, enjoy cold beer and live entertainment at San Miguel BeerFest.
The trademark of the event are its spirited and colourful dragon boat races, where teams of paddlers race the long narrow boats accompanied by the beat of the drum down to the finish line.
Over 200 international teams from countries such as Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Thailand and the U.S. battle it out in the CCB (Asia) Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races, the largest dragon boat event in Asia.
The free San Miguel BeerFest is at UC Centenary Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui East. The celebrations feature a beer drinking contest and a concert with Sodagreen, Sugar Club, Guo Yi, Ma Nine Hsieh & Friends, ToNick, and Kolor.
For the brave at heart who want to try their hand at dragon boating without being athletes or having to train, the event features a temporary dragon boat exhibit at Ocean Terminal Forecourt in Harbour City. During this exhibit, people have the chance to sit in one of three boats and paddle during photo ops.
The best time to see a dragon boat race are on the very day of the Dragon Boat Festival, which also takes place on a National Holiday in Hong Kong. During this day, the many Dragon Boat Associations of the area will hold races all over Hong Kong.
Some of the most popular sites for dragon boat races and are very easy and fascinating places for visitors to get to, include Stanley, Aberdeen, Saikung, Cheung Chau, and Tai O. Fortunately, all events are free to the public.