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Lunar New Year

Kung hei fat choy! Send Lunar New Year texts when all others fail, or via a 3D avatar, with 5 festive apps for Hong Kong

VIDEO: Watch Fan Bingbing run through her kungfu fighting moves courtesy of some Myidol magic; Tom Cruise show off his paper-cutting skills for Chinese New Year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 February, 2016, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 12:23am

As many parts of Asia including China and Hong Kong get ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which officially begins on February 8, many expats may find themselves excluded from the festivities as these mainly take place in people’s homes and at restaurants.

However, many restaurants in Hong Kong will be closed from Sunday through Tuesday; the weather is still fairly cold; and the traditions associated with Chinese New Year - for example, giving lai see, or little red envelopes stuffed with cash - may seem unfamiliar or even bewildering to people from other countries.

To make life easier and more enjoyable as we usher in the Year of the Monkey, according to the Chinese zodiac, here are five apps you may want to download.

1. FireChat: a messaging app that still works when phone signals are weak

Crowds will be congesting various parts of the city as the festive spirit takes over. Whether it’s the New Year’s Eve market in Victoria Park, the New Year’s parades in Tsim Sha Tsui or the firework shows at Victoria Harbour, chances are your WhatsApp or WeChat messages may fail at some point due to weak phone signals. Fortunately, Open Garden, the brains behind FireChat, have found a way to keep you connected without a signal - so you don’t have to worry about losing your friends or missing that special date.

The app works by piggybacking on nearby phones that also have it installed and bouncing messages around. If there aren’t any within a 70-metre radius, your message will be saved until you approach one, or until the network connection is restored.

2. Myidol: send New Year’s wishes with a 3D avatar that looks just like you

Want to express your Lunar New Year’s blessings in the form of a dancing cartoon character that is likely to have your friends falling over themselves in stitches? Myidol - Huanshi in Chinese - took the world by storm last year and has got it covered. The app can bash together a 3D avatar using a photo of your face - or of anyone you choose - and go through the motions on your behalf. Apart from getting down and boogying, it can perform bows and reel out phrases like kung hei fat choy (“I wish you wealth”) or any other message you care to dub in. It works by applying the features from your photo to a 3D puppet. Most parts can be customised, from the hairstyle and skin tone to body type, clothing and shoes. It can also sing and pose for photos. Impressed yet? It’s definitely a novel way to get noticed on Facebook.

WATCH: Chinese actress Fan Bingbing shows off her kungfu fighting skills

WATCH: Tom Cruise shows off his paper-cutting skills for CNY

3. Learn Cantonese: pick up some festive phrases in the local lingo to banter with strangers

Reeling out a few phrases in the local tongue serves as a nice ice-breaker and a great way to make friends when you’re an expat. Avoid getting lost in translation with Learn Cantonese, a de facto phrasebook that offers tip on pronunciation and comes stocked with handy explainers. The app offers 300 phrases for free, including seasonal greetings, or pay HK$38 for the whole bundle. The developer, Codeagent, has a similar app for Putonghua called Learn Chinese.

4. Timable: keep track of all the holiday events in the city

Hong Kong will be brimming with fun events over the next few days, with concerts, pop-up amusement parks, traditional New Year's markets and parades across the city. This app aggregates events so you don’t miss that special one you’re friends will be talking about later.

5. Lastminute: for that last-gasp getaway if cabin fever strikes

Although travel tickets are likely to be sky high at this time of year, it’s never too late to get away - and who knows, you may find a special deal on New Year’s Day when most people will be celebrating at home. Lastminute was created to serve the spirit of spontaneity, and it should prove your trusted guide to cheap hotels and flight deals in the region. The app compares prices from major hotel chains, airlines and travel agencies to make sure you get the best deal.