2. Best for dragon boat racing: Sai Kung
A vibrant, noisy and frenetic sport, dragon boat racing dates back more than two millennia. There are multiple stories explaining how dragon boating started, but it’s generally accepted that it has its origins in southern China as a ritual to bring fertility and good luck during harvest season.
An added layer of history came with the 3rd Century BC poet and warrior Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Miluo River in China’s Hunan Province as a protest against corruption. Locals tried to save him by racing out, beating drums and splashing water to keep away the dragons that they said lived there.
Lai works in Sai Kung in north-east Hong Kong, a verdant district that is home to country parks and an eponymous peninsula with some of Hong Kong’s clearest seas. It’s also a favourite spot for dragon boating, thanks to generally calm waters and an annual dragon boat festival. Known in Cantonese as Tuen Ng, this public holiday falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, generally in late May or early June.
“This is a beloved Hong Kong Chinese pastime. If you like teamwork in sports, it’s great to work together so you can fully feel the whole team spirit thing. Whenever there’s a race there’s the drums, the colour, everyone’s getting into it,” said Lai.
Each long, narrow craft is emblazoned with a colourful carved dragon, and up to 16 paddlers work together, following the rhythm set by a drummer at the front.
“You can have more than 100 teams in different racing zones, with tens of thousands of people watching from the shore, piers and on other boats. Just a very good festival vibe. To race, to maybe win a prize – it’s really fun and seriously exciting.”
In his work at Blue Sky Sports Club in Sai Kung district, Lai allows visitors to get a feel for dragon boat racing by taking to the water and improving their paddling skills, physical ability and teamwork.
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