|Though most attention on the Bun Festival focuses on the parade day - this year to be held on 24 May - it's actually held over several days: this year's Bun Festival starts on 21 May (there's also a Climbing Carnival the day before) and ends on the 25th.
On the Hong Kong Toursim Board's page CHEUNG CHAU BUN FESTIVAL 21 - 26 May, you can find a little info and download a pdf file with some more details and an events calendar - though, curiously, this omits the grand exorcism, which is a key function of the festival.
The Climbing Carnival is scheduled for noon - 6pm on 20 May; will be held on the Bun Festival space rocket cum climbing tower thing in the football court in front of Pak Tei Temple.
21 MayAt 11am the next day, there's a ceremony to invite gods from various temples around the island (yes, any jealous gods who may be reading this page: there is not only one god here!).
That evening, too, there's a Chinese opera in a temporary theatre right in front of Pak Tei Temple - operas will also be held on each of the next three evenings. They're kind of fun to watch for a few minutes, with colourfully costumed characters "singing" [to me, can seem like sing song wailing], a mini orchestra playing away with drums n cymbals n so forth, but it's mainly local old folk who watch the operas throughout. Good, too, for photos.
And at 9pm on 21st, also in front of the temple, there's a ceremony to mark the start of the festival.
Not mentioned by HKTB: but Taoist priests surely in action, too.
The island's restaurants start selling only vegetarian food: much of it rather sloppy beancurd in sauce. (Not sure if some keep selling meat n fish; but even McDonald's joins in, replacing Big Macs etc with vegetarian burgers).
22 MayExpect more rituals enacted by Taoist priests, plus gods Festival site in front of Pak Tei also busy with people sightseeing, burning incense to big bamboo n paper gods. More opera.
Not real exciting, but at least should be possible to roam around without being jostled in crowds, taking photos and so o
23 Mayat 2.30pm and 3.15pm, lion and unicorn dances scheduled - in front of Pak Tei Temple. Much else continuing as 22nd.
In evening, at 8pm, Chinese acrobatic performances to be held - perhaps right in front of the main bun towers. In previous years, performances have included fire eating, so can be entertaining.
24 May: the big day of the Bun Festival 2007In the morning, Taoist priests will conduct small ceremonies at places on Cheung Chau where ghost lanterns have been placed for the festival. Perhaps few people will pay much attention.
At 10.30am, there will be a kung fu performance at the festival site.
At 11.30am, there will be a unicorn performance (unicorn dances look - to me - a lot like lion dances).
I've previously seen Taoist priests doing odd performances on this day, so maybe they too will be delighting and baffling crowds as they help scare misfortune from Cheung Chau.
The Bun Festival Parade will start at 2pm, lasting for around two hours. Well before this, expect streets along the route to be thronged with people who have taken good vantages, or are trying to squeeze into places where they may have a good view. Note, too, that i can be very hot: ensure you have plenty to drink.
The parade ends with some teams that took part engaged in a pell mell rush back to Pak Tei Temple - including to bring back Pak Tei himself (well, the effigy of him: for the parade, he is carried in a rather grand sedan chair).
After the parade, things quieten down for a while. There's more opera, plenty more incense burning at the parade site. Many visitors leave - expect long, long queues for ferries departing Cheung Chau.
But perhaps the most fascinating - and certainly the eeriest - part of the festival is yet to begin. Ignored by the HKTB, the exorcism is the key climax of the Bun Festival.
According to local lore, wandering ghosts have had three days to feast on buns placed on the towers (how do they cope with plastic wrappers nowadays, I wonder!).
In late afternoon, the effigy of Dai Sze Wong is removed from the festival site, and placed on the nearby watefront. Locals come by, and set out dishes with liquid (tea), as well as some food - to draw in the ghosts, give them some last food before they depart.
More and more food is brought, and paper is burned in front of the god; the sun sets, and the ghosts feeding continues after dark. A small hut is erected, looking down the lines of food, to Dai Sze Wong; the place for Taoist priests who will conduct the exorcism.
Before midnight (around 11pm?), priests sit in the small hut; there's low chanting. And, a priest signals it's time - the ghosts have had their fill. The Dai Sze Wong effigy is set ablaze, taking the ghosts back to the underworld for another year.
The buns on the towers can now be taken by people: they're hacked down.
It's also ok for restaurants to revert to selling meat, fish etc (though I've an idea that in recent years, the festival's vegetarian phase has ended even by the evening of the parade day).
And at midnight, there will be a climbing competition, up the metal framed tower which this year is covered in plastic bun
25 MayAt 9am, locals queue to collect buns from the main towers: they're said to have medicinal value.
And at 2pm, there's a slimmed down Bun Festival parade, as gods are returned to their temples (though a fisherman's god likely went back to his place before the main parade even finished).
Cheung Chau history and culture: