The streets are getting crowded. Mass Transit Railway carriages are so sardine-packed full of passengers that no-one can move their arms. Red is the dominating colour on building facades and shop fronts. You look here – dining patrons are lined shoulder to shoulder, hunched over bowls of delicious food, you look there – shoppers haul armfuls of branded carry bags. Welcome to Hong Kong, and you’ve just arrived in time for Chinese New Year.
If you find yourself in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of Hong Kong’s central districts, you may want to stake out a good spot right by the street barricades before the night parade comes through. Brightly illuminated floats sporting sponsors from Disney Land to Cathay Pacific are accompanied by local and international performers such as acrobats, fire twirlers, cycling musicians and many more.
Head to Victoria Park or Causeway Bay and join the locals in search of the perfect bouquet at the Lunar New Year flower markets to bring good luck for the coming year. It’s a sensory delight with fantastically colourful arrangements and sweet-smelling aromas. These markets are notoriously known for becoming impossibly crowded, but you can avoid this with a morning visit.
Hong Kong’s main Chinese New Year event is arguably their world-class fireworks display which takes place in Victoria Harbour and last for a good 20 minutes. In terms of vantage point, you’ll want to see them from whichever side of the harbour you plan on staying the night since getting home can be difficult, but if you really want the best view, the Promenade on Tsim Sha Tsui is highly recommended.
If you’re not taking the following day to recover from the festivities with a jolly good sleep-in, you may find yourself at a loss of things to do. In stark contrast, shops and restaurants are closed and the once jam-packed streets are now only moderately populated with locals, likely headed to the houses of friends and family. There’s a Cantonese word to describe what’s happening here: Bai Lin, which refers to the special time reserved for loved ones. If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself invited to a home, make sure you come with a simple gift for your host and friends.
If you’re not invited into a home, major shopping centres are still open, but I suggest taking this time to enjoy Hong Kong’s quieter side. This might involve taking an explorative stroll down the city’s streets and laneways, or heading out for a beautiful hike at Dragon’s Back or Sha Tin Pass. What better way to start the new lunar year?