Saturday, July 03, 1999

The International Dragon Boat Festival

Hong Kong
We were a bit miffed at having missed the Dragon Boat races, but it turned
out that those were only the local races (they happened throughout Hong Kong).
The International Races included teams from the Phillipines, Japan, Canada, and
the USA. I found all the needed information on the web, and the times were
verified. So this time we left the apartment around 7:30 am hopped on a bus and
then the KCR. Chris missed the train I caught because he was eating "Digestive"
(a brand name) crackers, so I waited for him at the Sha Tin Station. We found
the course after a good deal of walking, passing the other race course we had
seen weeks earlier. We also found a banner from the festival laying on the ground.
The red and yellow one says "Brilliant Future"
Ground score! We stopped by the Sha Tin boathouse, were we erged and rowed in their tank for a while.
We crossed to the other side of the river in the rain. I got separated from Chris again, but we had agreed that he would have to go back early to get some held mail from the Post Office (Saturdays are the only days we're around when the post office is open).

The races start with a gunshot, but it sounds more like a big firework exploding. The drummers start wailing on their instruments and the boat surges forward. The bow of each boat has a dragon head, and the rowers are dressed in festive colors.
The paddles tear through the water, and the white spray flies everywhere. Towards the end of the 600+ meter course, the rhythm gets faster. The drums beat louder. The lead boats move back and forth. The crowd roars.
Fighting each other on every stroke, the dragon boats cross the finish line and the winners raise their hands and oars in celebration, making the whole boat
looks like one living creature.
It's been drizzling all day, so I bought a commemorative shirt to change into. A live band somewhere is covering the Eagles "Take it easy". Looking at the scoreboard, the fast times are right around 3 minutes flat. I had lunch in the Bier Garten, with a shrimp noodle dish while listening to the band play on. Around 1pm, I began heading home. I saw a "Report Triad Trouble" advertisement on a bus.

A little more on how we acquired the banner: We walked by it the first time on the uncrowded side of the shore. It was neatly wrapped around a pole, but there was an old man standing right next to it. "We'll get it on the way back." On our way back to the bridge to cross over to the populated side of the course, we saw that it had been moved by the street-sweeper to the other side of the path, right next to the river embankment. Chris and I stopped on both sides of it, checking it out as we watched the races. One end was tied to the pole, the other is sewn shut. So Chris put his bag over his end--the tied end--and pretended to be rummaging through his pockets with one hand while he went to work untying the banner with the other hand. Once he finished, he stood up and we watched the race go by. As the boats were passing, I stood on the sewn end to keep it from moving away as Chris slid the pole out with his foot. I then walked closer to Chris, subtly kicking the banner into a little ball between us. As the next race was about to start, I put my bag over the wadded up banner. As the race began, I dropped down and quickly stuffed it into my bag while attention was diverted elsewhere. The banner is a pendant about 14 feet long, with red trim and a yellow field. It has four, 18 inch, red characters written on it.

With my luck they would mean "I was stolen" even if it was really abandoned. Sitting back at home, under the canopy of the trophy banner, I contemplated going to the store for food. I flipped on 'Channel [V]' and saw the DJs who were at the rave we had gone to a while back. They were wearing the same clothes, so I was curious. Then I saw Austin, then a few of the other people we were with, then Chris was right behind the Djs! He was making a goofy face, but hey, why not? I saw the back of my blue, sweat-soaked shirt but I can't blame them for not airing footage of a profusely sweating, rhythmless, be-khakied gui-lo.

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