Chinese New Year – Gong Hey Fat Choy!

By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

I cannot believe that February is drawing to a close, now the Chinese New Year festivities are over and mid-terms are around the corner, I need to get my head down (I’m writing this post first though, as it’s much more fun!).

Spending Chinese New Year in Hong Kong has been amazing; many exchange students took the week off as an opportunity to travel. I was intending to travel to Borneo, but had so many issues with booking flights that I couldn’t go. This has been somewhat a blessing in disguise as I’ve been able to experience the CNY festivities in Hong Kong, meet a bunch of new people and had some spare time to catch up on school work and apply for internships (I’m desperate to prolong my time here!).

The festivities for Chinese New Year last well over a week. In the lead up to New Year, locals head to flower markets which are teeming with beautiful flowers; namely orchids, blossom trees, lilies and this tree with odd looking oranges on it. Other merchandise is also sold here; in amongst the busy crowd, toy sheep are shoved in your face by sellers, “Missy Missy, sheep also comes in pink!”, and there are other beautiful traditional gifts. I bought a lovely hand-made wind chime from the loveliest elderly ladies.

Orchids on Orchids
Orchids on orchids
Orange, Lemon, Peach, Apricot?
Orange, lemon, peach, apricot
You want a pink one, Missy?

The main Chinese New Year celebrations take place during the first three days of the lunar New Year. On the first day there was a fabulous parade in the evening with Chinese dragons, big floats, the biggest sheep you’ve ever seen and dancers from around the world. The second day consisted of a huge spectacular fireworks show, and on the third day there was a full day of horse racing at the famous Sha Tin racecourse.

All of which were so great – the atmosphere at each of these events was just unbeatable. Chinese New Year is the biggest and most celebrated festival in Hong Kong, and there are still other New Year traditions I wish to partake in before they’re over. I particularly want to visit a ‘Wishing Tree’ in the New Territories, which is an age-old tradition here in Hong Kong. Locals write their wishes down and tie them to traditional fruits then throw them onto the lucky tree in hope that they come true. The faith and religious nature of Asia is so lovely; if wishes come true I believe they return to where they made the wish to give thanks to the gods for granting it.

New Year Parade
New Year parade
Just a little sheep
Just a little sheep
Gong Hey Fat Choy!
Gong Hey Fat Choy!

It is year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram this year – the Chinese don’t seem to be quite sure which animal it is. “Gong Hey Fat Choy!” is how you wish people a Happy Lunar New Year in Cantonese, but it translates as wishing you happiness and good fortune.

Bring on Semester Two

By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

I cannot believe that I am now halfway through my study abroad experience in Hong Kong, which is constantly shaping up to be the best year of my life. Semester two commenced a few days ago so I’ve been settling back into the Asian lifestyle after spending the past few weeks back in the UK over the Christmas period.

I am excited to be back in Hong Kong to continue to explore and immerse myself in this vibrant, colourful city and to complete my bucket list. Although it has been somewhat bittersweet returning as the majority of exchange students were only here for a semester, so it is odd not having the same friends surrounding you but is also exciting to meet a whole new bunch of exchanges!

Spending Christmas back in the UK was lovely as, for me, I wouldn’t have been able to hack the full year here without seeing my family and friends and having a good old roast! However, many of my friends who are also on a year exchange did not go back home and took the time to continue travelling; some changed flights to do so whilst others still returned home, so it really does depend on how you feel as the semester progresses. I would make sure that you book flights either with British Airways as they always charge a £100 fee to change flights, or STA where you can buy a flexi-ticket for around £80 I believe; I booked through Travel Trolley and it would have cost me over double to reschedule. I would have also loved to travel but my bank balance would not have thanked me, so I have been awaiting my next loan instalment, true student style.

During semester one I travelled to the Philippines and Japan which was truly amazing. I will never get tired of Asian cultures – I find every aspect so refreshing and interesting. Studying abroad has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for travel which I have not been able to experience before and can’t wait to continue experiencing. Regular national holidays and professors’ accommodating natures allows you to easily hop on a short plane journey to fulfil your travelling needs!  With Chinese New Year being just over a month away and having a whole week off university, I hope to take my itchy feet to China (and maybe put my Mandarin into practice).
Below are a few photos of my travels to the Philippines and Japan, including a video of Japan.

Reflecting upon my first semester at PolyU in Hong Kong, for the second chapter of my Asian adventure I hope to continue to promote Manchester and the study abroad scheme, meet more people from around the world and continue to enjoy studying at this renowned fashion University.

Puerto Galera, Philippines
Puerto Galera, Philippines
Parasailing, Philippines
Parasailing, Philippines
Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan
Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan
Robot Show, Shinjuku, Japan
Robot Show, Shinjuku, Japan
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan