The Dragon Boat Festival is a popular Chinese tradition involving dragon-themed boats racing down the river. There are different types of boats that hold various amounts of rowers. Every team always one drummer who’s job it is to keep a steady rhythm for his team to row to.
Unless you plan weeks in advance, you won’t be able to snag train tickets to one of the popular places near Shanghai that go all out for the festival. Hangzhou is one of the top spots to celebrate the festival and it’s only about an hour away, costing around 100 RMB ($15.)
Ctrip.com only lets you buy tickets 60 or sometimes 30 days in advance. We set an alarm to the exact time that we could buy our ticket and the earliest ones were sold out within minutes – the return go even faster. Also keep in mind that Ctrip can have high booking fees, as high as 30 RMB per person ($5). Once you pay for it online, you still need to pick it up at the train station which requires the confirmation and a passport. We’ve gotten away with a digital photo of a passport twice, but you shouldn’t risk it.
Back to the dragon boat festival. We stayed in Shanghai and watched it from Zhongtan Lu. I’ve already experienced a dragon boat festival in Prague at a Rotary event and this wasn’t much different. It was pretty low key and there was a tiny stage on the other side of the bank where a few performers were performing simple dragon dances. It was cool, but I wasn’t especially impressed. But maybe I’m just spoiled!
The top places in China to see the dragon boat festival according to Wanna Travel are:
- Yueyang International Dragon Boat Race: Miluo River Dragon Boat Race Center, Yueyang, Hunan.
- Zigui Dragon Boat Racing: Xujiachong Bay, Zuigui Country, Yichang, Hubei
- Miao People’s International Canoe Festival; Qingshui River, Guizhou
- Hangzhou Xixi Dragon Boat Race: Xixi Wetland Park
- Bamboo sea Dragon boat race in Anji
Just keep in mind that if ticket prices during this time are high – whether you are flying or taking the train. Plan your trip in advance to ensure a good place to stay. Finally, don’t forget to eat zongzi during the festival. Zongzi are those cute rice triangles wrapped (and cooked) in bamboo leaves. They are prepared differently around the country and they can be filled with sweet bean paste, savory meats, etc.