River Hongbao 2022 is an annual Chinese New Year staple in the Singapore Lunar new year celebrations. This 2022 edition is held at the Gardens by the Bay Singapore and runs from 30 Jan to 6 Feb 2022. Let’s check out the attraction with a walk through.
The event is an annual affair comprising of lit lanterns dotted about a venue. It typically has an auspicious theme and coincides during the 15 days of the lunar new year.
Supertree grove lanterns
The Super tree grove is home to most of the major lantern light ups. Taking center stage is the massive God of Fortune. He stands almost 10 meters tall with a flanking smiling Tiger standing beside him and wishing patrons continuous flow of wealth for Year of the Tiger.
Notably, in Chinese folklore, the God of Fortune is the Chinese god of wealth. He is the fortune god associated with prosperity, luck and fortuitous windfalls, and a popular figure with businesses. Also, when lit at night, God of Fortune’s coins are animated in a flowing pattern.
Notably, also here, the OCBC skywalk is open for access during River hongbao. However, the attraction is entry slots are pretty much mostly sold out for pretty much the entire day.
Lanterns light ups
Moreover, there are a couple of smaller themed lanterns at the Supertree Grove. First off is the Love is Sweet display. Inspired by the Chinese auspicious phrase “Tian Tian Mi Mi”. It depicts a family enjoying giant dessert items, such as ice-cream and sweets. Also, the display is flanked by food lanterns served in traditional rooster bowls surrounded by pandas. It possibly has a “Le Le” panda context.
Great Luck, Great Fortune “Bai Nian” shows the events which typically happens on CNY as families visit one another. Here, the scene is depicted by an extended family members and a sea of oranges and red packets.
Rising after Challenges is a musical piece with music and dance steps. This display wishes all “Bu Bu Gao Sheng”. It is also the only interactive exhibit and photo booth where the display would play music when you step on the piano floorboard.
Moreover, not all lantern displays are located within the enclosed River Hongbao grounds at the Supertree grove. Some big lantern lightups are scattered around the Garden’s public-accessible areas. On the conservatory entry outside the event grounds is the Smiles of Happiness. It touts to brighten up your day through smiling and welcome the new year with optimism despite the current pandemic situation.
Also, a minor lantern displays here include the Springtime Songbirds display. However, it is weirdly in an inaccessible in a bad location which requires you to exit the event ground to view. Also, I didn’t manage to catch is the “Spring Fragrances” located within the paid Flower dome conservatory. This lantern set piece here is based on the phrase “Chun Hui Da Di, Hua Xiang Man Yi”.
Chinese customs exhibition
Moreover, here, you can find a mini exhibition. It is the only exhibition here at river Hongbao covering topics of Chinese culture and customs. Going down memory lane, the last river Hongbao we visited at the floating platform in 2020. It had an exhibition brought to you from the Singapore Mint covering topics of money and angbaos.
This year’s exhibits teaches about Chinese customs and how various practices, superstitions and beliefs come to be. Examples includes kitchen gods, door gods and how certain customs come to be, such as why food offerings are made and their belief origins. You are good for viewing for about 20 minute tops.
Event entry archways
Furthermore, a lantern archway decorates every River Hongbao entry point. There are 3 of them here in total. One is located at the Bayfront Entrance (Spring Welcome Arch), the main visitor center (Golden Garden Arch) and the last the at garden Meadows area (pink flamingos lanterns). If you need help getting around, you can find event maps dotted around the compound by various display highlights within.
Moreover, the garden’s main visitor center entrance is home to the Golden Garden Welcome Arch. The design for this welcome arch is based on the auspicious saying “Chun Feng De Yi” (春风得意). You can find lion dance figures here flanked by majestic curtains blowing in the spring breeze. It touts to bring along growth and prosperity into the new year.
Additionally, the Bayfront Spring Welcome Arch is located right near the MRT exit. You might remember it being beside the Garden’s by the bay Floral Fantasy attraction we visited recently. Also the highlight by the Bayfront entrance is the Roaring Tigers and Dragon display.
Here, it is large floating display sitting on a barge at the Garden’s dragonfly lake by the Bayfront MRT entrance. Also, the light up depicts a pair of regal tigers on the hills with a dragon rising from the water from this majestic lantern.
In addition, the Dragonfly Lake where the Bayfront entrance is also where visitors can offer Flower Blessings by releasing floating flowers with LED lights. Also, all proceeds from the flower blessings will go to unnamed charities.
Also, the Meadows area is where you can find a Pink flamingos lantern light up by the Meadow Entrance welcome walkway. Notably, this entrance walkway is inspired by the idiom “Hong Hong Huo Huo”.
Meadows Chinese Animal Zodiac displays
Furthermore, the meadows area is home to the 12 Chinese zodiac figures light up. Here, the animal characters are dressed in various flight and football attires, presumably taking flight or kicking off into the new lunar year.
Also, the zodiac displays possibly drew inspirations from Singapore heartlands and landmarks. This includes the Super trees right here at Gardens by the Bay and the iconic heartland Dragon children playground. Also, complementing the animal zodiac section are minor displays such as the Abundance of Prosperity fish by a koi pond.
Moreover, there is also a Wishing Hearts well. Here, you can throw coins to strike the bells within the hearts like a wishing well. The Wishes Coming True installation is tad a recreation of typical Singaporean wishes. This include material wants and food, things Singaporeans typically desire. Notably, it is based on the traditional festive greeting wishing for one’s dreams to come true.
Wrapping up is a Giant Revolving Lantern, a concept inspired by “Zou Ma Deng” “Running Horse Lantern” (走马灯). This traditional revolving lantern depict scenes as a story. This one tells of leaders riding horses through mural paintings by established Singaporean artist Yip Yew Chong. Also, all lanterns here now are all lit by energy-efficient LEDs. I reckon the use of LED lighting now dramatically reduces the need for on-site diesel generators to light up the otherwise really energy-hungry lights.
A free yet ticketed event
Moreover, though River Hongbao is free to attend, an online booking is required for “ticketed” entry into the event area. This is to limit crowds to about 4000 patrons per ~3 hour time slot as covid-19 restriction measures. But fret not if you are unable to obtain entry to this year as there is a large “virtual” online coverage on the event on their website too.
Also, entry is segmented by fixed block timings, starting in the late afternoon slot at 4:30pm to 7:30pm and the last session at 7:30pm onwards. Also, issued coloured wristbands identifies your timeslot. The wristband colours rotate about depending on day and timeslot.
Crowd restrictions are counter-productive
Furthermore, entrances to the enclosed event area are bottle-necked with closely packed crowds and long queues. This is unlike previous events River Hongbaos where crowds are more dispersed, with patrons entering and exiting freely. The visitor restrictions this year, possibly seen as means to regulate crowds are actually rather counter-productive.
Hence, do avoid entry and exits during the peak weekend periods due to the huge crowds there. The last night session is the most popular slot but also the most crowded. It’s a social distancing nightmare with closely-packed queues bottle-necked to enter exceeding 500 meters even on weekdays.
In fact, if the event were to run longer with the time slot restrictions where crowds are able to flow in and out fully, it would space out the crowds and reduce the front-end rush with patrons fear of missing out.
Meadows carnival sector
Additionally, I attended my session on the less-popular day slot. I was able to catch day views and the light up on the tail end of my slot. Additionally, I was able to enter and exit the attraction with ease during this earlier time slot.
Furthermore, unlike the Bayfront MRT and Conservatory visitor center entrances, the Meadows garden carpark is a minor entrance and notably is the least crowded entry point. Also, carpark lots at the gardens and meadows are usually still available until the 6pm mark. Hence, its advised to come early.
Also, the meadows entry brings you straight into the event mini children funfair carnival brought to you by J Kids amusement funland. You can find robotic rides, carousel, an inflatable playground, and performance stage area. In addition, the meadows performance stage is where you can watch Nightly Festive Shows Dances, including Getai (stage singing) and Talent nights. These shows typically starts from 8pm onwards.
All in all, as spring arrives with new blessings, River Hong Bao 2022 is one which aims to brighten up everyone’s mood during the pandemic. This is all to welcome the Year of the Tiger together with the roars of the beasts.