A guide to Auckland's Lantern Festival

by - Saturday, February 04, 2012

currently: have a sore throat but I don't care :)

He looks delighted for some tea. Ha. ha. [/end bad pun]
Towards the end of every Chinese New Year in New Zealand, the Asia New Zealand Foundation like to hold their annual Lantern Festival for the people of Auckland and Christchurch. It's where food, lights, and possible half cousins of mine meet up and party down, Asian style. I'd consider myself a veteran at this event, because I've been going for the past few years (see here and here). And so, because there are still two days of the Festival left, here is a guide to enjoying the Auckland Lantern Festival in Albert Park. Courtesy from yours truly.


How to make the most of the Auckland Lantern Festival:
1) Wear good comfy shoes.
Even the Skytower makes an appearance!
Whether or not you use public transportation to get to Lantern Festival or drive in to the city yourself, you will be walking around heaps and standing around a lot. There aren't a lot of benches to sit at because, lets face it, if you're reading this blog, you're not part of the "elderly" category. And they'll need those benches more than you do. If you want places to sit - I suggest create your own in the park. If you're with a large group of friends and family, bring a picnic blanket and sit in view of the karaoke or the main stage. You could sit down for dinner and a show :)

2) Don't eat before you get there.
Just one of like 1592736 food stalls. So much food....
You know how some events you feel like you should eat before you go in case the food is crap? The food is not crap here. In fact, most of it is fantastic. I can't really vouch for everything, but most of the stuff is made fresh and kept hot (or cold if it's ice cream.) There's so much to eat there, you honestly would not know where to start. Personally I suggest that if you don't have a place where you can sit and eat, get food that you can eat with one hand or comes in a bowl such as dumplings or BBQ Pork Buns/Char Siew Bao (me and Boyfriend personally recommend "The Sausage King" stall as they make theirs so fresh and hot, it burns.) Don't be like the one person I saw who attempted to eat lobster while standing in the middle of the street and dropped half of it. That's a sit down food. Lobster is $10 there by the way.

3) Bring hand wipes/bottle of water.

5 minutes later and this is all over my face.
This may sound very motherly, but following on from the handheld food suggestion, bring hand wipes. There is a great chance that your hands will get messy and sticky (specially if you eat candy floss, icecream or toffee apples). And if you're like me, sticky hands will annoy you. So either bring hand wipes or bring a bottle of water where you can pour water onto your hands and clean it that way.

4) Bring small change.
I want.
For all those 10c coins you find on the street, bring it to this event (though you will need WAY more than 10c.) Aim to bring (at minimum) $30 in small notes and coins to the Lantern Festival. Because even though Eftpos machines are amazing, you won't see a lot here. Think of it as $10 for souvenirs, and $20 for dinner and dessert. Of course, you will need more if you're bringing kids or poor homeless friends. Boyfriend himself only bought $20 to the Lantern Festival, and would have ran out of money had I not gone and paid for his wooden ninja stick.

5) Ask people where they got their stuff from.
See that lighted arrow in the middle? That's the start.
And I don't mean like where they bought their shoes. I mean when you see people carrying/wearing/eating items from the event that you really want to buy - ask them. The food stall/shop area is incredibly long. And you don't want to waste too much time looking for the one place that sells rice paddy hats when you could be looking at the acts on stage. Plus there are just so many people around, making it hard to see what's available, so it's just easier to ask.

6) Make time to see the acts.
China's best (or only) reggae band, Long Shen Dao
This year, Long Shen Dao is the headline act of the Festival. From Beijing, they're a Chinese reggae band - yes, you read right, dreads and all. Now don't scoff, I know what you're thinking. "What? Asians doing reggae? Ha, that's hilarious." You may be sceptical towards the idea that Asians can work it like Bob Marley, but what makes Long Shen Dao great is that they're not trying to be Bob Marley. They're an Asian band with reggae influences. It's fantastic. They're fantastic. I don't even know what they're saying in the songs but I don't care. You will listen and find everything about it fantastic. They're along the same lines as NZ's own Katchafire.
(You can watch one of their videos here)
There's also a karaoke stage, mini rides for the kids, and water orbs to play in and watch. It's fun :)

7) Take a camera and be a tourist in your own town.
I would buy these flowers and recreate Wonderland.
This is possibly my most important tip. Most people don't realise that you rarely get the luxury of having another culture come to you in such a spectacular fashion. I think the stats were that over 20,000 people attend the Lantern Festival last year. That's pretty good in a city of 1.5 million people. So take some friends, take some cameras (not your crappy cellphone cameras please) and start photographing everything. I even got a photo of me posing by a blue glowing tree:
A glowing tree! I'm easily amused.

So you now have two nights left: Tonight and tomorrow. You better start making your way to Albert Park while you still can. Otherwise this frightening Bok Choy will come after you.
I would never want to eat this.
Seriously, eating this vegetable already scares me, why make a glowing version?
Have yourselves a lovely long Waitangi weekend :)

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2 comments

  1. :) Wow Mel! Very good guide :P I must have been so close to you last night, totally watched the girl with the fail Lobster :P Made me laugh A LOT, so yeah, felt like a bad person. I re-enacted that bok choy lantern (along with many others) I did the worlds sweetest hair flick to get the green going :)

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    1. Thanks for that! Just curious but do I know you in person?

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