Monday, March 4, 2013

Lantern Festival

Christchurch hosts a "Lantern Festival" every year around (usually a few weeks after the start of) Chinese New Year celebrations. Here are some of the highlights of the event:

This event is usually held in one of the parks in the city; in earlier years, it was held in Victoria Square (within the CBD cordons), but since the quakes, has been relocated to North Hagley Park (a large park in the center of the city where many events are held). It runs for two nights (i.e. over the weekend) from 5pm to 11pm. In addition to the lanterns (hung from the trees and also in little dioramas scattered around the park), there are also live performances (including a mix of music, acrobatics, dancing, and "open stage"), and a night market (with many local food vendors in attendance, as well as stalls selling other knick knacks including lanterns, balloons, and glow sticks).

For the past two years, I've been keen to attend with my camera, but life has managed to thwart both attempts so far:
  • In 2011, on Monday morning on the first week of term, I was looking forward to heading out to a few of the events planned to mark the start of the festivities on Friday evening (a parade starting from the Arts Centre); but as we know, the Feb 22 quake struck on Tuesday at lunchtime, which put paid to those plans indefinitely (NB: the event was obviously cancelled that year). 
  • Things were starting to look up for 2012, but various circumstances meant that I ended up spending that weekend frantically trying to finish off a report for a project due on the coming Monday - I ended up settling for just a quick drive-by on the perimeter.
Fortunately, it was third time lucky this year, though it very nearly could have ended up the opposite way...

Traffic Woes
We headed out to Hagley Park just before 8pm, but by then, the traffic situation was already quite bad. There were cars everywhere - totally gridlocked on the east-bound lanes, illegally jam packed in semi-rows (or in some cases any which way) within the reserves on the side of the road (fortunately, the daffodils aren't out at this time of the year, or else they'd have been toast!), parked along the side of the road (mostly in an orderly fashion, but with the occasional car or two angled in like crowded teeth). Around the corner (on the opposite side of Hagley Park to where all the action was), the rugby fields (beside the golf course) had been converted to car parking that was brimming with cars; I certainly don't envy the walk some people had to and from their cars!

Just before turning in to Harper Ave, it's already clear that there's utter deadlock on the east-bound lanes already. Here, the traffic situation already threatens to leave this intersection deadlocked if one or more cars enter the intersection and then get stuck there...

Going no where fast - View from side mirror while stuck in the middle of the massive traffic jam. We were stuck in this for half an hour. Pictured here is sunset at 8:15pm.

Groups of pedestrians frequently crossing at the lights contributed to the deadlock...

Road Closed - The section of road nearest to the show was closed off to traffic this year. This probably helped cause the traffic build ups...

Finally, after some 30 minutes stuck on a single stretch of road, we spent another 15-20 minutes circling the city trying to find an available parking space on some of the streets nearby (there were none), before finally resorting to the Rolleston Ave/Hagley Park carpark.

A Long Walk Beside the Avon
It turns out that the Rolleston Ave carpark is quite a wretched place to park, especially at night. It is very dark in there, with access restricted to a single access road with quite a lot of bumpy/unsealed/dusty land on either side that stretches on for several hundred metres. On one side of this road, the Ellerslie Flower Show campus (to open to the public next week) was taking shape, with last minute competition gardening taking place inside the tents.

Admittedly, although having lived in Christchurch all my life, this was perhaps the first time that I'd actually taken a walk around this part of town, and definitely the first time I'd done it in the dark.
Stately View - Looking down Kilmore Street, with the three flagpoles and a pretty little flower bed.

Lanterns Along/In the River
Some of the lanterns were floating (albeit anchored) in the river. Chains of red lanterns strung in the trees above and beside the river playfully lead visitors downstream towards the rest of the action!

It all begins here - the lanterns underneath this footbridge across the Avon mark the start of the festival's displays. As can be seen, this bridge was jam packed with pedestrians...

 The people of Christchurch were out in force - here, many people are walking beside the river

It cannot be a Chinese Lantern Festival without a dragon of some sort...

... or its tail!

A fisherman and some ducks

And of course... my favourite goldfishes...

Animal Displays
Scattered around the park, there were many different displays of various groups of animals.

 "Happy Feet" says Hi

Pigs, Rabbits, and Snails
 Pigs and peaches
... and snails, veges, rabbits, and watermelons!
 One of two giant snails...
Watermelons in the trees


Sheep and Cattle
Two staples of the New Zealand farming/livestock industry...


In the Trees
"The Tree of Dinners"
Some of the displays had a surreal edge to them (especially as some of the shots in later sections show), but none more so than this display. I dunno what it was about this in particular, but this one had an extra comic edge to it. Perhaps for me it was the random thought that came into my mind seeing this: if a cat were to see this, it would be like Christmas had come early - "Dinners in a tree" (in a heavy faux-Russian accent)

Glowing white geese/swans in the tree

They actually did have some colour, but they look even more interesting when overexposed...


These look kindof surreal - like some of those early CG renders, or colour slides reproduced in print

 Chains of red lanterns line the sides of the river
 Boxy blue/yellow lanterns - these probably have some religious meaning of some sort...

 More red-yellow lanterns
 And again...
And now some green ones too...

General Atmosphere
Stage and Performance Area
Set in the middle of the festival zone, was a stage where live performances were being held...

 The stage - Gold lion lanterns (or so) flanked the stage on either side. The one of the left looks a bit evil though in this photo ("I will zap you with just one look! Mwahahaaha!")

There was a quite a large crowd gathered around in front of the stage.

There were even more gathered around many of the night-market stalls which were trading...

Animals on Fire
Each of the ground-based displays all attracted large crowds of onlookers. When trying to expose for the crowd, we get some interesting results: the petting zoo has become a fire-circus!

Looking at these again, these images also invoke a kind of primeval "dancing around the bonfire" vibe, don't ya think? :)

Tree of Dinners II
While the "Tree of Dinners" is surreal enough as it is, things get practically psychedelic when you add a little camera shake into the mix...

 Woah dude!
 Just chillin'

By the time we were leaving, a random guy was doing a little performance of sorts under the tree using a large glass ball, which he effortlessly maneuvered in and between his hands...

Beside the River

It was great to get out and about attending this event, and finally managing to take photos of the lanterns (3 years after I first tried/hoped to do so). Apart from being a really nice long walk after a great dinner, it was fun just doing something different on a Saturday night for a change.

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