Residents and tourists swarmed Hong Kong’s streets on Friday as the city headed into a long weekend that combines the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day, munching on snacks at night markets, watching a fire dragon dance or simply taking in the sights.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and other ministers joined the crowds and visited various attractions, with Lee and Chan stopping by the Kennedy Town bazaar.
Chan also visited Tai Hang with Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung for the fire dragon dance, an intangible cultural heritage event making its return after a four-year hiatus.
It is the first large-scale celebration of the three-day Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays since the end of the pandemic. An estimated 1 million mainland Chinese are expected to visit the city over the eight days that their “golden week” lasts.
Chan delivered remarks to the crowd in Tai Hang shortly before the dragon dance began.
“Hong Kong has emerged from the pandemic and the situation is getting better as we had 4 million tourists coming to the city last month, which was 80 per cent of the pre-pandemic level,” he said. “I hope residents will go out more at night and enjoy the atmosphere.”
In the morning, the minister appeared in Sai Wan to help launch a day of free tram rides as part of the city’s celebrations.
Even the hot weather failed to dampen people’s enthusiasm. The Hong Kong Observatory said this Mid-Autumn Festival was the hottest on record, with the temperature climbing to 33.7 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit).
The hot weather is predicted to prevail over the long weekend with isolated showers expected.
To help keep the crowds moving, most MTR lines and seven light rail routes will run overnight while KMB and LWB buses will extend their nighttime services tonight.
In Kennedy Town, dozens of vendors were setting up stalls selling souvenirs, accessories and other trinkets for a temporary bazaar along the promenade as part of the government’s “Night Vibes” campaign to reenergise the after-dark economy.
One vendor selling candles, who only identified herself as Peggy, said the turnout at the Kennedy Town bazaar on its third day of operation was much better than expected.
“My rent this time was free, so even if not a lot of people had turned up, there wouldn’t be much loss,” she said.
Another bazaar opened in Wan Chai on Wednesday and a third began operating in Kwun Tong on Friday afternoon.
Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn Hon-ho said earlier that most vendors and performers at the trio of night markets would not be charged rent or would enjoy subsidies.
Another vendor, Henry Ho, who was running a stall for Glass Gardener selling pre-made specialty cocktails in bottles, said he was only notified the rent would be free about two weeks beforehand. He had been prepared to pay about HK$1,000 for four nights.
“We also set up shop at other markets. Yesterday, we did one in a shopping centre, and the foot traffic was not so great, to be honest,” he said. “This level of turnout today is fantastic and totally unexpected.”
Some shop owners were also selling cooked foods at the event named “K-Market”, while a crowd gathered in front of the stage to watch live band and DJ performances.
Many visitors chose to dine on the snacks they had purchased under pavilions lit up by rows of colourful lanterns and string lights, under a full moon.
Various photo spots had also been set up, such as a large, circular white screen with a bright light behind it so people could throw eye-catching shadows as they posed. The event also provided attractions for the younger attendees. Children were seen whizzing around a small maze that had been set up near the waterfront.
Sisters Jenny and Sneha Lalwani, in their 20s, said they had seen posts about the market on Instagram and decided to come by as well.
“We bought these two little rings for HK$20 [US$2.5] each,” they told the Post as they held up their matching accessories.
Asked how they felt about the government’s campaign to bring Hongkongers out and about again after dark, and whether they had been going out at night lately, they said: “Of course! It’s the holidays right now, so we’ve been out … [the campaign] is great because Hong Kong used to be known for its nightlife, but everyone has been staying home since the pandemic.”