This year the Cheung Chau Bun Festival promises to be more vibrant than ever, with an array of colourful parades, traditional bun scrambling competitions, and cultural performances that highlight the rich heritage of this unique event.

Although the parade and bun tower climbing happens on the Buddha’s Birthday, which falls on Monday the 5th of May in 2025, the festival is actually a 3-day event. The parade is on day 3, and the first 2 days are more preparation and activities for local villagers.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival Parade: Afternoon of Monday the 5th of May 2024

Day 1: Vegetarian food only in most restaurants. Check out the veggie dim sum available in the Golden Crown restaurant in the main square

Day 2: More veggie food, though “modern” restaurants ignore the tradition and sell meat. In the back streets, you will see plenty of preparations, lion dances, and floats being prepared.

Day 3: The big day, parade normally starts at 2 pm but the main route is packed by midday. The tower climbing competition happens at midnight on day 3.

The parade is what most people would like to see, and hence is the busiest. It is hard to find a good spot to watch the parade go by and the obvious places are all blocked off by police crowd control barriers.

Parade floats with the famous “floating” children start at the Pak Tai temple and go along the waterfront as which is where most people see them. Each float is set up by a different organisation, mostly local district groups, and is pushed and supported by people from that local community.

Interspersed are the bands, ethnic dances, and visiting community groups from outside Cheung Chau. Generally, these additional groups only make the first part of the parade, along the Praya Road, while the local groups will then continue on via back streets heading back towards their own community halls.

While the biggest “show” can be seen on the first part of the route, if you are more interested in the local community aspect then you can also see that, and most if not all of the children’s floats, by waiting in the back streets.

Our favourite place to watch is at the foot of the School Road staircase, you’ll find it easily on any map. And while we miss out on the visiting bands, and the floats can be a little tired by the time they reach us, we do avoid the big crush and can easily back, by going up the staircase, if we decide we have had enough of the crowds.

In addition to the parade, the Bun Scrambling Competition is the main highlight of the festival. Held at midnight on the final day, competitors race up a tower covered in buns to collect as many as possible. The buns are believed to bring good luck, and the competition is a thrilling spectacle of agility and tradition.

Originally this was also purely a local event and sons of the village climbed the three big bamboo towers to gain the best, meaning highest, buns. But since the reboot of the festival with government backing there is now a steel framed tower, which while much safer, does lack some of the atmosphere of the original event.

Nevertheless it is still a great spectacle, and knowing that the climbers are safe, wearing harnesses and with safety ropes, does make it a more comfortable watching experience for the audience. The excitement builds as the climbers make their way up the tower, each trying to outdo the other in speed and skill.

The crowd cheers them on, creating a great atmosphere that is exhilarating. And if a local Cheung Chau son, or daughter, wins the day then so much the better for the village community!

To visit Cheung Chau take the ferry from Central Pier No. 5. The journey takes about an hour, offering scenic views of the Hong Kong skyline and the surrounding islands. Once you arrive, turn left outside the ferry pier, and it’s a short walk to the festival grounds outside Pak Tai Temple. Take a look inside at the sword said to be wielded by Pak Tai himself, a revered Taoist deity. The temple, rich in history and adorned with intricate carvings, offers a serene contrast to the bustling festival outside.

On the day of the parade, there will be free Cantonese opera singers in an open-air bamboo opera house, a great tradition.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. As evening approaches, the atmosphere becomes even more electrifying with the anticipation of the Bun Scrambling Competition. The streets are lit up with lanterns, and local vendors set up stalls selling a variety of traditional snacks and souvenirs. As you wander through the festival grounds, you’ll be immersed in the lively spirit of Cheung Chau, making it an unforgettable experience.

Eat some local snacks, such as the traditional fish balls, or some of the new inventions such as curly crisps. The buns of the bun festival, a large steamed white bread that is available with a variety of sweet fillings and stamped with the festival lucky word, are an interesting purchase but don’t really make for great eating. They are more for luck, and as a souvenier.

And the lines outside the authentic bakeries may give you pause, if you really want to try one then come on a day other than the parade day when queues are more reasonable and the buns are still available.

After the parade finishes, typically by 4 pm, if you are staying on until midnight then perhaps relax on the beach or take a hike up the “Family Walk” to see the views.

Bun Festival is almost always a very hot day so do be prepared with what sun protection your skin type requires, as there can be little or no shade on some parts of the islands.

Staying over to avoid the rush back to the ferry will require booking well in advance, try the Warwick Hotel or the nearby “B&B” which, despite the name, is a guest house and not a B&B as such.

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