Hello travel lovers!
This past weekend I went to the Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown, London.
Because I rise super early, I was up and breakfasted by 9:30.
Before you can say jack robinson (not that you do), I was down on my way to Leicester Square and Chinatown to make the 10:15 start of the parade.
For living so close to everything, I usually just walk everywhere. I could take the tube, but honestly I just prefer to walk. If you’ve ever been to London, you might know how well you can get to know the city if you don’t spend all your time on the tube.
So after winding my over towards Chinatown and asking whether I was on the right track, I found myself standing on the edge of a crowd of people who stood with cameras ready and watches/cell phones expectantly waiting for the parade to appear.
Everything was festooned in red lanterns and people teamed in and out of each side street, holding paper dragons and red events programs. The children were throwing small explosives into the street and jumping back in surprise as they made an audible “pop” upon contact with the path.
People teemed about, each wondering when the parade would appear. I just wondered if I was the only one there alone. What made me smile was the wide variety of families and individuals that were there. They ranged from me, with a completley hidden motive for being there, to typically British families wearing traditional chinese knock-off dresses, to Chinese girlfriends and western boyfriends, to Chinese families with three or four children in tow.
The entrance to Chinatown was filled as well. People wandered in and out, waiting for the stalls to open. Stalls that would sell hot Baozi, or buns, and other delicacies of the day.
Finally, the scarf-clad woman in front of me exclaimed to her boyfriend in a decidedly Scottish accent, “OOH! Here’s comes, it really is coming!” And sure enough, there we heard drums and saw the flashing head of a golden dragon wending their way towards our corner of the street.
Gongs were struck, and many people robed in gold and red processed past. Some people weren’t watching (see above), but most were banging their toy drums and watching, captivated by the display of culture.
I had found myself a good spot, it seems, because I got a fairly good view of the dragon’s head! Western dragons are fine, but give me a Chinese dragons any day! I love the intricacies of their colouring, and each embroidered coil that snake down their backs.
They’re actually kind of cute, with their fluffy feather-like puffs that surround where you might imagine their ears to be, and their bulbous little noses and gaping mouths. Yes, I’d want to ride one.
Of course, all these mystical creatures were puppeted by children, or teams of people. When you think of a puppet-show, it often seems a shame to see the puppeteer who is making the characters move. Not so with dragons of this kind; it completely adds to the charm and magic of the performance to see both the humans and the puppet moving together in tandem, as if they have made friends.
Some fancier dress followed, as well as a very English bus pasted with a “Happy Chinese New Year!” sign. Official-looking men in florescent vests urged us to all, “please keep out of the street!” as they pushed us back. Some people just didn’t listen, stepping straight into the way of the procession to snap the perfect picture from the middle of the road.
After the bus passed, it seemed like the parade (however short) was over, so I decided, with somewhat bad judgement, to make my way to Trafalgar Square, where there was reported to be more festivity. One my way I passed this tree. Hoards of people surrounded it, throwing the little bean bags into the tree. As I got closer and got my hands on a bean bag, I read the little tag attached; “A wish for prosperity” it read. I threw it into the tree with such brute force that it ended up by my feet. Trying again, a few times with which ever bags I could grab, like a greedy child, I finally managed to lodge my bag between the crook of two “branches”. Satisfied, I smiled, hoping my wishes of prosperity, good health, love, etc, would come to fruition.
Bad mistake. Trafalgar was MOBBED. Somehow, I managed not to succumb to panic, and inched closer to the centre with everyone else.
Something crazy inside my told me to go look at the stalls, which weren’t seeing at all, being only advertising. But look I did, and soon found myself trapped in between a gridlock of people, who were all as disgruntled as I was. One advertiser stood in his tent and yelled “Move alonggggg….police is coming……no need to stall…..hurry upppp” in his lovely Chinese accent. I was put at ease by this, finding it humourous, but the man next to me, who was a bit too close, muttered something rude and gave a push to the woman in front of him.
Coming round to the south side, I had the most lovely view. Snapping my picture as I was moved along, I managed to get this shot before I was swept away by the current of people, like the smallest of fish.
It was just too crowded for me to stay to watch what would have occurred on the stage. There were people dressed as Zodiac characters in blow up plastic costumes that looked ridiculously difficult to walk in. They rather just shuffled down the street, with helpers to hold their arms in case they decided to totter and fall.
It is indeed a shame that I didn’t stay longer, but the crowed were just too much. Stay tuned tomorrow to hear what I did end up doing!!
It involves these. Well, not really. But I did try on some specs.