Plenty of buns for 70,000 visitors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 April, 2012, 12:00am


Organisers are expecting a bumper crowd of 70,000 people at this year's Cheung Chau Bun Festival - 20,000 more than last year.

'This year, the festival falls on a weekend, so that will certainly bring more people out,' said Ho Lai-on, director of the Hong Kong Cheung Chau Bun Festival Committee.

But that has some locals worried about overcrowding. Shop owner Charlotte Tang said the crowds could even deter some visitors. 'There's about 30,000 people living here. Adding 70,000 would make it unbearably crowded. It might even put people off coming,' she said.

The festival on April 28 is the first since it was listed last year by the Ministry of Culture as part of the nation's 'intangible cultural heritage'.

Thousands of people flock to the island each year to see contestants scramble up an 18-metre tower to snatch buns - with those located higher up worth more points. Bamboo towers were used in the festival until a collapse in 1978 led to the end of the scramble. It was revived in 2005 using metal towers.

The final will be held at midnight on April 29 - and there will be more tickets available to see it this year. Some 1,650 tickets will be given out at 10pm on April 28, up from 1,500 last year, with entry at 10.30pm.

And there will, of course, be buns. One of the two official bakeries will start making the traditional white buns, stamped with the word 'peace', this weekend. Owner Kwok Kam-chuen was forced to close his bakery last year because he ran out of room. The buns were traditionally left outside for visitors to see them get their 'peace' stamps. But last year, food and hygiene officials required all bun preparation to be done indoors and he did not have the space.

This year, Kwok has converted his storage space for the buns.

A carnival would be held on Cheung Chau this Sunday from noon to 6pm, including a play on the history of the bun festival, Ho said.

On festival weekend, the government and police will have special crowd control arrangements in place, while there will be extra ferry and bus services.