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The Chinese New Year Survival Guide

Stuck in town over the CNY holiday? No need to grumble—there’s tons of fun and festive stuff to do.

By HK staff | Jan 19, 2012

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  • The Chinese New Year Survival Guide
    Kumquats at the flower market
  • The Chinese New Year Survival Guide
    A day at the races
  • The Chinese New Year Survival Guide
    Burning incense
  • The Chinese New Year Survival Guide
    Dragon's Back

While many people skip town for sunnier climes over the long Chinese New Year holiday, there are plenty more of us—whether due to family obligations or sheer disorganization—who find themselves in town and at a loose end over the five-day break. Instead of stressing out, throw yourself into the New Year and hit up the gargantuan fireworks display and lively flower markets. We’ve got all the info you need right here.


Related article: Chinese New Year Dining


New Year Activities

Maximize your luck by partaking in these auspicious pastimes.

Flower Fairs

Fill your house with beautiful blooms from one of the city’s flower markets to maximize your good luck in the coming year. Each CNY, people flock by the thousands to markets in Victoria Park and Mong Kok’s Fa Hui Park (to name just two big ones) to soak up the festive atmosphere, pick up some plants and grab snacks and hilariously innovative novelty toys (a big seller last year was a massive inflatable “gai dan zhai” egg waffle, wrapped in a gigantic brown paper bag). Competition for pitches is fierce, and prices for prime spots can run into the hundreds of thousands. At last year’s stall auction held in November, the South China Morning Post reported that the biggest snack stall in Victoria Park went for $510,000. This year, the markets will be open between January 17 and 22, starting at 6pm and running late into the night.

Have a Flutter

If you’re going to indulge your gambling habit for just one day a year, make it really count with an afternoon at the Sha Tin Racecourse on January 25. It’s considered lucky to gamble at the New Year to maximize your luck for the coming 12 months, which is why you’ll hear the distant clack-clack-clack of mahjong tiles in any lift lobby you care to be standing in over the holiday. It doesn’t matter if you’re not hugely into horse racing, as there’ll definitely be a carnival atmosphere at the race ground. Music performances, a food fair, lion dancing and a variety show means there’ll be plenty to keep you entertained if you lose your shirt by race four. Admission begins at 10:30am, with the first race kicking off at 12:30pm. Find more info at www.hkjc.com.

Hit Up the Temples

Soak up more of that New Year vibe by paying a visit to one of the many temples that will be offering New Year predictions to the faithful that flock there. One of the most famous is Wong Tai Sin Temple (2 Chuk Yuen Village, Wong Tai Sin, 2327-8141), where fortune tellers and palm readers abound. Shake out a fortune stick and have one of the many experts interpret it for you to see what the year has in store. Another big ticket is Che Kung Temple (Che Kung Miu Rd., Tai Wai). Just a short walk from Tai Wai MTR Station, top government officials make a pilgrimage there on the second day of the New Year to get the city’s fortune read. Less of a hike out is Man Mo Temple (124 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan).

Street Party

Every year, brightly dressed performers pretend that it’s not 10 degrees and drizzling, and take to the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui to put on the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade. Expect a dazzling display of floats, marching bands, dancers and acrobats. The parade starts at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre piazza at 8pm and proceeds along Canton Road to Haiphong Road, turns right onto Nathan Road then turns left onto Salisbury Road, ending in front of the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel. Takes place January 23, 8-9:30pm. Seating in the spectator stands opens at 7pm, and tickets cost $180-$350 from www.discoverhongkong.com. Viewing along the parade route is free.

Do it With Dragons

We Hongkongers really are obsessed with the mythical beasts for some reason. Here are a couple of dragon-y things that you can see and do to help you ring in this most auspicious year with a roar!

The Dragon (roller coaster)

Thrill seekers flock to Ocean Park’s original roller coaster, featuring two (two!) upside-down loops. Ocean Park, Aberdeen, 3923-2323, www.oceanpark.com.hk.

Dragon Garden

A private landscaped garden out in Tuen Mun, the eight-hectare Dragon Garden was bought and cultivated by the late philanthropist Dr. Lee Iu Cheung in 1949. With fishponds, beautifully cultivated greenery and traditional pagodas, it faced demolition in 2006, when some members of the Lee family planned to sell it to developers. Other family members intervened: they bought the land from the shareholders and had the site declared a grade II historical monument. Visits are available, but be sure to book a tour in advance. 32-42 Castle Peak Road, Tsing Lung Tau, www.dragongarden.hk.

Dragon Bar

A stylish bar with a fierce vibe, this watering hole at Hullett House takes inspiration from the mythical beasts, with a golden dragon crouched above at the bar and swirls of orange clouds adorning the ceiling. The “Dragon’s Back” cocktail is a blend of vodka, champagne, lychee liqueur and fresh strawberries, garnished with a slice of dragon fruit. That’ll put a fire in your belly. Hullett House, 2A Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 3988-0101.

The Dragon’s Back

This fun hike takes you along the hill ridge (the eponymous “back”) in Shek O Country Park. To the east, you’ll see magnificent views of Clearwater Bay, and to the west, the Stanley Peninsula. End the trek with a seafood meal in Shek O village. To get there, take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan, then take bus 9 to Shek O, or one of many green minibuses.

Dragon Centre

This kinda crappy Sham Shui Po shopping mall is home to a kinda crappy indoor roller coaster and ice skating rink. 37K Yen Chow St., Sham Shui Po, www.dragoncentre.com.hk.

Dragon’s Beard

Grab a pack of this traditional candy, which is made with spun sugar strands and stuffed with shredded coconut and peanut. Dragon’s Beard candy can be found at hawker stalls around Temple Street. Alternatively, go for the posh stuff at Bamboo Garden.

Tung Lung Chau (Eastern Dragon Island)

A popular destination with rock climbers, Tung Lung Chau also has some interesting historical features, including a 300-year-old maritime fort from the Qing Dynasty and a prehistoric rock carving. There’s a campsite for people that want to enjoy the great outdoors, but leave the camping stove at home—a restaurant near the pier sells basic noodle and rice dishes. There are two ferries to Tung Lung Chau. One from Sam Ka Tseun, Lei Yue Mun (operated by Coral Sea Ferry, 2513-1103) and one from Sai Wan Ho (operated by Lam Kee Ferry, 2560-9929). For a ferry schedule, click here (for reference only).

Dragon Fruit

This juicy, mild-tasting fruit is so-called because of its bright red skin that looks a little like dragon scales.

What’s In Store This Year?

Renowned feng shui master Mak Ling-ling shares her insights into 2012. Bet you never could have guessed any of this might happen!

It seems that Year of Dragon will not be a prosperous one—or at least this is what Mak Ling-ling tells us. “Hot money will still flow to Hong Kong, but it seems as though it won’t do the economy good. It is highly likely that Hong Kong’s economy will decline along the road,” say Mak. “However, governments all over the world will stimulate the economy and stabilize prize levels through various measures.”

Mak says that there might be a virus breakout in the southeast and northern areas of the city. She warns that if you are an eldest daughter, you should take more care of your health, as the two stars that control diseases have more impact on the oldest girls in families.

Investors should also be careful with their money, as it’s going to be a difficult year. Mak predicts that the stock market will be turbulent, while the property market will be easily influenced by housing policies—with low- and mid-range flats being hit the hardest. Investors might find it easy to buy homes, but it will be more difficult to find new sellers. Mak recommends mid and long-term investment in the Year of the Dragon.

So what does Master Mak think of the upcoming Chief Executive election betwen Henry Tang and CY Leung? “Leung Chun-ying does not get a lot of help from others, and he has to do everything himself. His face shows that he has to struggle his way up. For his fortune in 2012, he has a strong stamina, but his reputation is likely to be tainted. He will face a lot of difficulties in his election campaigns,” Mak explains. So what about Henry Tang? “His face looks fortunate. Because of a strong chin, he will get a lot of help,” Mak says. Even though Tang was born in the Year of the Dragon—which, somewhat counter-intuitively, is actually unfortunate for him if he is campaigning for CE this year—but apparently Tang’s fortune is safe. Mak says that there are two lucky stars in alignment for him, meaning that he will get promoted to the coveted position.

Besides, it seems that chaos and catastrophe will reign in the year to come. “There will be senior officials and important political figures stepping down,” Mak says. “There will be serious explosions and fire hazards, and the northwest regions of Asia are particularly prone to these events.” The feng shui master also warns of the frequent occurrence of natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides. So be aware of possible dangers on your travels through Southeast Asia.

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