Confusion mars return of bun climb

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 May, 2005, 12:00am

Visitors wander in the heat for hours not knowing when they can queue for scramble-viewing tickets

Poor arrangements for the culmination of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, last night's bun scramble, left many revellers wandering the island for hours and cooled their interest in the revived tradition.

Many who wanted to see the bun climb first-hand blamed the organiser, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, for not specifying when they could queue for tickets to the football pitch in front of the Pak Tai Temple, where the 14-metre steel bun tower stood.

Expecting the queue would start to build as early as 10am, 20-year-old Bernard Lau Wing-ho arrived at Cheung Chau at 8.30am with his girlfriend, Rowena Cheng Oi-kwan.

'It was quite disorganised. I searched on the internet for the arrangement details, but it didn't say when the queuing time was,' said Mr Lau, who was among the first in the line at 5.40pm.

The department and police initially told the public tickets would be distributed to the first 1,000 people in the queue, who would be admitted to the football pitch at 10.30pm. The next 1,200 people would watch the climb on big screens at two sports centres.

But they refused to specify a time for queuing to start or when tickets would be distributed, saying plans would be made once the crowds were assessed.

There were about 40 people in the queue by 6pm. Some visitors said they would rather watch the climb on television at home than on the sports centres' screens.

Last night's scramble was the first since a bamboo tower collapsed and injured 100 climbers and onlookers in 1978. A steel tower was built this year and the 12 climbers, selected through competitions in the leadup to the festival, had to wear safety harnesses when they raced up the tower at midnight.

Political activist Lui Yuk-lin, who joined the queue at 6.30pm, thought the game would start at noon. 'I didn't know when and where to queue. I had to ask around. There should have been more instructions at the pier. The government should tell the public more details beforehand.'

Lee Tak-ming, 55, a local who makes the smaller bun towers for the festival each year, said he was not keen to see this year's bun climb.

'It is a pity the game is not our original game. Even the shape of the tower is different,' he said.

Photographer Jacky Yip Chuck-lam said the new rules had taken away some of the interest: 'Only 12 people on the tower is not exciting enough.' Jennie Lo, whose husband participated in the ill-fated scramble of 1978, complained that the climbers were no longer locals and had been trained to climb.

Chilean visitor Raimundo Costa said he enjoyed the parade but had no plans to stay for the bun climb because it was held so late and he did not understand the tradition.