Chinese New Year Celebration: The Year of the Snake
First - these aren't my photos, these are from the internet - I didn't carry my camera in to town when we headed in, because I had no idea we'd encounter the Chinese New Year celebrations. But these photos kind of embody what we saw, so I'm adding them in. Because who wants just words when you can have photos too?
So - we headed in to downtown Melbourne, and found that we were in the midst of a celebration for the Chinese New Year. We walked along the Yarra River, and the entire way seemed to be full of booths selling foods and items (not all from China, but from a variety of Asian countries) and people. There were also performances: Foo dogs (or lions?) like these, dancing in restaurants; masked dancers on stage performing what I can only assume was a love story; children in martial arts school uniforms giving demonstrations; little kids with faces painted, and little girls in traditional garb. (And I'm a sucker for cute little kids.)
And of course the lovely red and gold lanterns strung in the trees, along the river walk, adding to the festive look of the area.
The casino was full of people celebrating the New Year, as well as all the shops and restaurants in the area. So it made for great people watching. We browsed the stands, didn't buy anything, just soaked up the atmosphere.
We were going to stay for the fireworks at
9:30 PM, but having spent most of the day there we were tired - and the crowds grew and grew - so by 8 or so we headed back to our quieter neighborhood.
Feb. 10, 2013
St. Kilda Festival - Festival Sunday
We've been staying in the St. Kilda neighborhood, and every year for the past 30 years this area has hosted what has become the largest free (and outdoor) music festival in Australia. At least, that's how it's billed. There have been performances at restaurants, clubs, and parks all week long, and we've gone to a few. And today, Sunday, is the biggest day - morning to night music, events, games, booths, food, freebies, sales, rides, on and on.
And, of course, music. Local music, foreign music, performances by known musicians, and up-and-coming performers. No one we recognized, of course, but we recognized styles - jazz, reggae, African drumming, traditional drumlines with fancy stick work, folk and country and rock - and even Dixieland, though that was early this morning and we missed it. Also traditional Brazilian music complete with Carnival dancers and capoeira (Brazilian kick-boxing dance moves). Note the guy upside down - flipping over on the pavement!
And crowds and crowds of people. Locals told us that "tourists" come in from the suburbs and attend this event - something like 70,000 to 100,000 people attend each year. And since it was a beautiful warm sunny day, there must have been close to 100,000. (I liked the way the people from the suburbs were called tourists - not out-of-country tourists like us. A lady explained, as I admired her dogs, that the out-of-community tourists didn't follow the local driving rules, and that they were different from visitors from other countries. She used "tourists" as a derogatory term for non-locals, but was very happy to chat with me as an out-of-country visitor who was ostensibly not breaking local driving customs.)
All of this took place down by the St. Kilda Beach, with roads closed and trams not running through.
This area is also home to Luna Park - an amusement park built in 1912, so over 100 years old! And home to one of the few remaining wooden roller coasters. The entrance to Luna Park is the iconic moon entrance - but I personally find it kind of creepy - like this giant moon faced clown is eating the entrants. Seriously creepy. Richard sees it as more of a Maori-influenced face, kind of doing one of those faces done in the haka. But there's definitely a malevolent feel to this moon face! Even when rendered as a mosaic.
But the funniest thing to see - two people dressed up as seagulls. With padded bodies and incredibly sea-gull-like masks, and just walked around saying "Caaaawwww, cawwww" in very sea-gull-like voices, with very sea-gull-like movements. And of course people ran up and had their photos taken with the sea gulls. And of course I took photos of random people with the sea gulls, because it just was so funny. (Neither Richard nor I are fans of being photographed, but I'm not above adding photos of random people in public places doing funny things.)
Now had they been dressed as little blue penguins, I might have had my photo taken with them.
But not sea gulls.
Oh, this second sea gull photo - these people are a group of Israelis who recognized Richard from Queenstown, NZ! How funny is that???
We skipped the rides, since most of them are either designed for children, like the giant child-eating shark slide here (the area seems to specialize in rides that look like they're eating people) - or the rides are based on turning people upside down or bouncing them violently - like this giant arm, left, or the whirling hammer thing (lower right). I didn't get photos of the giant bungee jumping cage ride. We don't do heights.
It was a beautiful day, a fun event, and we had a lot of fun. Free music, people watching, food to munch, and lots of walking in the streets with no cars in sight.
A great Festival Sunday!