Dragon Boat Festival in Singapore. It invites both national and international teams to race along in decorated boats. The dragon boat race crew consists of 22 athletic member paddling furiously to the rhythm of a drummer sitting at the head. Participating can be rather taxing on the old knees; the technique does not require the team to row, instead, they sit on their knees and paddle. Ouch! Like so many other Chinese events, there is a story behind the dragon boat race and it goes back two millennia.
Both a Minister of State and a poet, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mei Lo river unable to bear the corrupt government and abuse of power he witnessed by courtiers. Fisherman tried to rescue the much-loved poet sailing up and down thrashing their oars in the water to ward off hungry fish. They failed to save him but in commemoration of his honest character they cooked rice dumplings wrapped in banana leaves. They threw them into the water to appease the spirits of the river on the anniversary of his death.
They still cook these dumplings, called Tsung Tze Ma Chang and throw them in the water on the day of the festival. You can still watch the ancient ritual of showering each boat’s dragonhead before the race. So, the furious rowing of the teams today mirrors the desperate attempts of the fishermen beating away the man-eating fish from Qu Yuan.
Their attempts may have been in vain, but the Dragon Boat Festival is a much more cheerful event today – a healthy dose of competition, ancient rituals all rounded off with some dumplings!
- The Bedok Reservoir is a quick and cheap 20-minute taxi ride to the east of the city.
- Buses 18, 21, 22, 28, 65, 66, 67, 69 & 228 to Bedok Reservoir Road.
- Even better, if you are making a stopover at Singapore and have time to kill, grab a taxi from Changi Airport to Bedok Reservoir. It’s better than moping about the airport in a stupor.
If you should miss the event, the Kallang River, close to the Central Business District is another place to spot some dragon boat racing. They practice at weekends and you could even give it a go yourself.
Hostels in Singapore
We’ve got some rather lovely hostels in Singapore which come very highly recommended by HostelBookers’ customers. If you’ve read our post on flight stopovers, you might decide that Singapore warrants a couple of days exploring. You are flying half-way round the world so make the most of it. Ranking top 3 in HostelBookers Awards for Excellence 2011, The Rucksack Inn is right in the hub of Singapore’s exciting nightlife.Hangout @ Mt. Emily is a hip choice with lovely views over the park. Both offer shared or private rooms with rates ranging from €15 to €38pppn. Check out some more hostels in Singapore here.