Arts & Culture

Best Dragon Boat Festivals in Asia

If you plan to observe a holiday in 2011 that commemorates the ritual suicide of a pre-Qin Dynasty scholar and poet, make it Duanwu Jie. The Duanwu Festival a.k.a. Dragon Boat Festival a.k.a. Double Fifth, takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar (June 6 this year) in China and, indeed, across the Chinese cultural diaspora. With that, check out ten terrific dragon boat festivals in Asia.

Hong Kong Duanwu

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The fountainhead of modern dragon boat culture and place where the International Dragon Boat Federation came to be in 1991 is a safe Duanwu play. The big dragon boat event in Hong Kong, however, occurs not on Double Fifth but on May 15, 2011, with the Lamma 500 on Tai Wan To Beach, Lamma Island.

Hong Kong City Guide

Where to stay: Royal Plaza Hotel Hong Kong

Beijing Duanwu

Beijing celebrates Double Fifth with a level of pomp and ceremony that you would expect from the colossal People’s Republic capital. Special events unfurl in and around Tiananmen, the Forbidden City and myriad temples.

Beijing City Guide

Where to stay: Capital Hotel Beijing

Shanghai Duanwu

Food plays a central, symbolic role in Duanwu. As Double Fifth lore has it, peasant farmers threw glutinous rice balls, or zongzi, into the Miluo River in Hunan to lure fish from Qu Yuan’s body, the martyr poet the day commemorates. Fast-forward to the Shanghai of today and the tasty rice snacks proliferate throughout the dragon boat festival.

Shanghai City Guide

Where to stay: Salvo Hotel Shanghai

Taipei Dragon Boat Festival

Taiwan is a major pulse point in the dragon boat world, with the annual Taipei Dragon Boat Festival a wildly popular event.

Taipei City Guide

Where to stay: Caesar Park Hotel Taipei

Phuket International Dragon Boat Festival

The Phuket International Dragon Boat Festival takes place ever year on Nai Harn Lake and Nai Harn Beach.

Phuket City Guide

Where to stay: Burasari Resort Phuket

Macau International Dragon Boat Races

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Like Hong Kong, Macau makes the most of Duanwu, with three days of parades, special events and dragon boat races.

Macau City Guide

Where to stay: The Venetian Resort Macau

Malaysia International Dragon Boat Festival

The official Malaysia International Dragon Boat Festival takes place in the Federal Territory of Putrajaya every October, which, obviously, has less to do with Duanwu and more to do with the sport itself. Still, a good reason to get yourself to KL.

Kuala Lumpur City Guide

Where to stay: Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel

Penang International Dragon Boat Festival

The world class Penang International Dragon Boat Festival will go down at Teluk Bahang Dam in Penang on June 11 and 12, 2011.

Penang City Guide

Where to stay: Bayview Hotel Georgetown Penang

Singapore Duanwu Festival

Singapore’s considerable Chinese community makes the city state’s Duanwu festival one of the best outside of mainland China. The Bedok Reservoir hosts the dragon boat races.

Singapore City Guide

Where to stay: Marina Bay Sands Singapore Hotel

Thailand International Swan Boat and Long Boat Races

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A section of the Chao Phraya River in Phra Nakhon, Si Ayutthaya hosts a form of Double Fifth-style competition, per se, every September. Though distinctly Thai, swan boats are unquestionable cousins of dragon boats and overall, the principle is the same. All in all, the Thailand International Swan Boat and Long Boat Races make up a multi-day event worthy of a Bangkok day trip.

Bangkok City Guide

Where to stay: Pathumwan Princess Hotel Bangkok