‘Carnival’ in the Kong!

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Festivals

27 November, 2013

Hong Kong has done it again. Before getting into the ‘winter’ holiday season of parties, festivals, and specialty markets, this energized city managed to squeeze in yet another party – ‘Carnival‘! Last week, I posted about ‘Mardi Gras‘ in Victoria Park, which was really not Mardi Gras at all, but quite charmingly, an arts festival focused on kids. But anyone who knows the ‘hood of Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), where Carnival was held this past weekend, knows that pretty much anything based there will indeed be a full-on party. Carnival was no exception – with a few cultural surprises thrown in for good measure.

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To be fair, unlike the prior weekend’s event, Carnival here did bear some slight resemblance to the Carnival celebrations you probably know about in for example, Brazil. There were short, high-energy parades with gorgeous Brazilian samba dancers, accompanied by African musicians, who also performed again separately. That’s pretty much where the reference to more established Carnival celebrations ended, though.

Brazilian samba dancers...

Brazilian samba dancers…

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…African singers and musicians…

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…clowns on stilts…

Curious spectators take in the Brazilian- and African-inflected parade

…curious spectators…

A 'guard' to the parade performers hold back the crowds behind ropes

…and guards…all played a role in the Carnival parade

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The rest was done with a very HK (and LKF) twist. This year’s Carnival included a somewhat humorously and quite illogically named ‘Fiesta de Hong Kong’ element on ‘Hong Kong Street’, a throwback to 1970s HK with a neon banner,  bamboo scaffolding (which still permeates HK construction sites today, to my astonishment), traditional snacks (with names like ‘dragon’s beard candy’ – a crunchy, cotton-candy-like confection made with spun sugar, peanuts, sesame seeds, and coconut), and various collectors’ items from decades past.

Retro HK posters on sale on 'Hong Kong Street' at Carnival

Vintage HK posters on sale on ‘Hong Kong Street’ at Carnival

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Flashback to 1970s HK

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Hawking collectors’ items on ‘Hong Kong Street’…

…to wide-eyed buyers

…to wide-eyed buyers

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Don’t ask…

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Anxiously awaiting traditional HK snacks…

…like 'dragon's beard candy'

…like ‘dragon’s beard candy’ filled with crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, and coconut

‘Pineapple-bun’ eating contests were held – another apparent misnomer in HK culture, as there is no pineapple within. These were unsurprisingly a little disappointing to watch, and I felt a bit badly for the contestants who were randomly selected from onlookers. It was sort of a ‘I binged on pineapple buns and beer, and all I got for it was this stupid T-shirt’ type of experience.

'Pineapple bun'-eating contest…much pain, little gain

‘Pineapple bun’-eating contest…much pain, little gain

Of course, the area was replete with street food and endless stalls with mostly young ladies hawking beer. Come on, this is LKF, after all – what did you expect?

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I really have no idea why…

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After all that spectating…

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…even a pup is entitled to a little barhopping

Don't even THINK about taking my beer (ahem, I mean, juice)!

Don’t even THINK about taking my beer (ahem, I mean, juice)!

Although I fully expected an ‘adults-only’ atmosphere, there were numerous kid-friendly activities. Wo On Lane was turned into Kids’ Street in the afternoons, complete with interactive games and a full throng of larger-than-life cartoon characters hamming it up for photos. Habitat for Humanity also set up shop, including a station where visitors could hand-decorate ornaments.

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Decorating ornaments for Habitat for Humanity

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The paparazzi line up for the ‘got milk?’ cow

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You never know where or when love will hit you…

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If you can get past all of the improperly named aspects, very loose interpretations, and somewhat awkward cultural mergings of these recent celebrations, these were actually quite fun and worth a visit in future years, even if just to soak up some of the festive atmosphere. Admittedly, the relatively token, local HK cultural elements were a bit like having vegetables with your steak  – sort of pointless, but it might make you feel a bit better for indulging! If drinking all afternoon (and/or night) is not really your thing (it’s not mine, either), ‘Mardi Gras’ and afternoon-only explorations of ‘Carnival’ will still entertain and are very family-friendly.

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See you there next year! Vê-lo no próximo ano! 明年再见…

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For more information on LKF Carnival 2013, click here and here.

For my post on ‘Mardi Gras’, click here.

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Posted by

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!

11 thoughts on “‘Carnival’ in the Kong!”

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and for your sweet compliments. We just moved from NYC in the summertime, and I also enjoyed photographing parades there. I didn’t expect HK would have events like this, but it’s been a blast documenting and enjoying them!

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  1. your pics are fabulous! my cousin went and i saw a pic or 2 on her smart phone but yours definitely gave a better glimpse of what i missed out on. i think it’s awesome HK has a carnivale celebration.. i had no idea there was a large population of brazilians in HK. (or are there?)

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    • Thank you so much! I appreciate your kind compliment. It seems quite common that HK finds almost any reason to have a party – and Carnival is generally indeed a great party! I really don’t think there is a significant population of Brazilians here. My guess is they ‘imported’ the dancers and musicians for the weekend! 🙂

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  2. Pingback: The More Humble Side of Hong Kong: Sketches of Mong Kok | hong kong fong

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