Hong Kong's first bear carnival


Arthur Tam talks to organiser Rick Wong about the grizzly fun that’s heading our way.

Hong Kong is about to witness dancing bears – but not the kind you’d see balancing on huge balls in a Victorian circus. It’s also about to see bear hugs – but not the sort you can find in a wrestling ring. And this city is soon to see all sorts of great bears enjoying picnics – but these guys are far from being little teddies. Between June 21 and June 23, Hong Kong welcomes its first Bear Carnival. Finally, this oft-overlooked LGBT subculture, consisting of cuddly, big, hairy, sometimes grizzly, but always fun men, can have its moment in the rainbow spotlight.

Our fair city has been falling short when compared to others, like Taipei and Bangkok. These places go large for their gay festivities and we rarely put on anything that comes close – so it’s refreshing to see the three-day bear fest being held this fortnight. Rick Wong, owner of the only bear bar in town, Boo Bar, and also founder of the Bear Carnival, feels there’s been a big need for this party. “Hong Kong doesn’t usually put on many international gay events – regardless if it’s bear-themed or not,” he says. “We just don’t have big LGBT parties and foreigners don’t feel there is any gay fun in Hong Kong. So I started thinking – since I’m a bear and I like bears, but there are no bear parties around, it’s only natural that I throw one together. It makes sense.”

The Bear Carnival is indeed set to be great. Bears are coming out of hibernation from across Asia and heading our way to join in the event. Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Malaysia – they’re all coming out of the woods for the fest. Wong says he’s been planning this event since the beginning of the year and all that work is paying off because tickets are almost sold out. He expects more than 100 bears in attendance. “It’s quite exciting, really,” he says, “because bears are usually homebodies (cave dwellers!). If they go out, it’s usually just for dinners and movies. Now there’s an opportunity to get out and mingle.”

The carnival is split up into three parts. The first night is the ‘welcome party’ ($150, including two drinks) at Jordan’s Boo Bar. There’s going to be games and vocal performances by local bear artists. The following day is the ‘beach and boat trip’ ($390), which goes from 9am to 6pm, and includes lunch, wakeboarding and banana boat rides (no, not those kind of rides!). It’s a perfect opportunity to let loose a few growls while basking in the sun. Then, in the evening, it’s the sweaty, shirts-off ‘dance party’ ($220), where there’s fun, frolics, dancing and a Mr Bear HK contest. Everyone who goes gets a bracelet and gives it to the most handsome bear they see – and the one with the most at the end of the night becomes Mr Bear HK. There’s also a performance from fierce local drag queen Coco Pop. The actual location of the party – not Boo Bar – is still on the hush-hush and won’t be revealed until you purchase a ticket (when it comes to some gay parties in Hong Kong, it’s good to stay on the DL). On the final day, after all that dancing, guests should be as hungry as bears, so there’s a ‘farewell dining event’, sporting Cantonese cuisine ($200).

So, if you go down to the woods for the Bear Carnival, you should be sure of plenty of big surprises – and lots of fun. “Hopefully everything runs well this year,” says Wong. “We would love to make this an annual event if we can.” The bears raise their paws to that.

Bear Carnival June 21-23, various locations. For more, check out www.gayfunhk.com/bear or visit Boo Bar, 5/F, Pearl Oriental Tower, 225 Nathan Rd, Jordan, 2736 6168; www.boobar.com.hk


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