A Harrowing Halloween…in Hong Kong?

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Adventures with Friends, Festivals

To my great surprise, Halloween has not only made it out here to HK – it’s a full-blown MONTH of festivities. HKers seem to revel in ANY reason to party, and this holiday is no exception, despite the utter lack of any cultural relevance whatsoever. Endless costume parties, elaborate exhibits and dedicated events at local amusement parks Ocean Park and Disneyland (yes, there is one here, too), themed afternoon teas and cocktails (of course, cocktails), and a relatively tame version of trick-or-treating for kids.

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Even pirates and she-devils have to check email and Facebook once in a while…

Here in HK, Halloween apparently grew out of an importation of the holiday by nightlife mogul Allan Zeman, who not coincidentally also developed the insane party area now known as Lan Kwai Fong or simply LKF (no relation to me, thank you very much). 25 years ago, he introduced HKers to Halloween. After a couple years of mostly expats dressing up, locals began to embrace the traditions. More excuses for parties emerged. Party shops began to bring tailors on board (this is HK, after all) dedicated to custom costume design and alteration. As for us? Our costumes were pieced together from what was left at a shop in Causeway Bay. Guess we need to plan more carefully next year!

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Yours truly, tormenting a terrified musketeer (I mean, Mark) at the Mira

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Look carefully, and you’ll notice my slit-throat choker necklace. Accessories, people, are key!

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Zeman was then asked to lead Ocean Park’s Halloween events about a decade ago – and now, they’re a key part of the city’s yearly celebrations. I can’t quite believe I talked myself into paying a theme park a visit, but it’s worth at least one go-around (and I captured some pretty cool underwater images – stay tuned for more in a future post). Sorry to those looking for insights on Disneyland, though – I had to draw the line somewhere.

Ocean Park, festooned for Halloween, from the cable car

Ocean Park, festooned for Halloween, from the cable car

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Creatures watching creatures

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Creepy, blood-red jellyfish exhibit inside Ocean Park, with a few phantom-like observers

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These jellyfish tanks instantly reminded me of anatomical oddities on display at medical museums…only alive and writhing

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Ocean Park certainly has its moments, it’s a lot of fun for kids, and there is great energy here especially in October. For those like me without kids, don’t be ashamed of going – on Halloween day (and night), the park was crawling with almost all adults. But don’t expect to get spooked either, if that’s what you’re craving. To me, even the most ‘intense’ interactive Halloween exhibits leaned more toward funny, in a cheeky way – disappointing to anyone really seeking a good scare.

I think the impressive roaming characters’ costumes (and amazing make-up) were some of the best tributes to Halloween in the park.

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I’m very glad I made a last-minute decision, despite exhaustion from shooting for hours, to visit the carved pumpkin exhibit. These are NOT your average pumpkins – expertly sculpted by the renowned American artists from Villafane Studios. The faces are so life-like and highly textured, it’s impossible not to be utterly entranced by them. I can’t imagine having to toss these masterpieces – but their ephemeral nature somehow just adds to their appeal.

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Andy Bergholtz, master pumpkin carver, working his magic behind the scenes

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All this makes for a very lucrative October for numerous venues around the city. This year, the craziness ensued at clubs and hotels all over, including the Mira, Zuma, Shore, Bisous, Ozone, Brickhouse, and pretty much all of LKF. And partygoers aren’t complaining. While I’ve found that the welcoming of uniqueness lags a little behind here in general, it is emerging – and perhaps Halloween is one small occasion on which some are beginning to come around and express themselves. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to hide behind a mask. And drink (more).

In any case, I have to admit, it’s fun to be in HK in October. The weather finally turns mild and often beautiful, and the party invites flow in. Halloween is serious business here. Give in a little, and you’ll likely be rewarded by a great time (or at least a few chuckles).

Boo!

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Globetrotter based in Hong Kong, travel and street photographer, Getty Images contributor, award-winning blogger of WanderFong.com - seeking true beauty in travel and life!

10 thoughts on “A Harrowing Halloween…in Hong Kong?”

  1. It’s too bad you weren’t able to go to Ocean Park in previous years. The two years before were creepier. But then again, the park was opened later too.

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  2. I was in Hong Kong in September, looks like I went a bit too early cuz I would’ve loved to celebrate Halloween there! Some of those costumes and the pumpkin carvings are just spectacular!

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    • Don’t worry, there are so many celebrations here, you’ll have ample opportunities to observe festivals of some kind, if you revisit. But yes, Halloween is fun here – maybe plan for it next year 🙂

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  3. Pingback: ‘Mardi Gras’ in Hong Kong: It’s Not (Just) What You Think | hong kong fong

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