At least 13,000 people had flocked to Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau for a parade and festival by noon on Wednesday, but many said they would not stay on the outlying island for a signature bun-scrambling competition in the evening because of the crowds as well as school or work the next day.

The sound of gongs, drums and suona – a Chinese reed instrument – resonated throughout the scenic island as dancing qilin – similar to a dragon dance but with a mythical hoofed beast in local folklore – made their way through the packed streets and alleyways for the Cheung Chau Da Jiu Festival.

Spectators were eagerly waiting for the piu sik – or floating colours – parade, a traditional Taoist ritual featuring children aged between four and six dressed in colourful costumes and balanced on “floating” platforms, in the belief it will ward off wandering evil spirits.

Sun Ferry said that as noon 13,000 people had made the trip to Cheung Chau, which was 23 per cent higher than in the same period last year. The ferry company added extra sailings to cope with demand.

Revellers were bracing for hot weather, with the temperature at 28.1 degrees Celsius at 2pm.

Tourists queue up in Central for the ferry to Cheung Chau. Photo: Jelly Tse

Teacher Lianna Wittenberg was on Cheung Chau for the first time with her Spanish husband and two daughters aged four and six. She said that while they wanted to see the bun towers, they would leave before the start of the competition.

“It’s partly the crowd, but also tomorrow is a work day and the children have to go to school,” said Wittenberg, an Australian in her early 40s.

“There is also other stuff to see like the parade, we also want to eat the mango mochi as well as the buns with the lotus bean paste or the red bean filling.”

Teacher Lianna Wittenberg is visiting Cheung Chau with her husband and daughters. Photo: Ambrose Li

A group of three secondary school students, aged 13 and 14, said they decided to make use of the public holiday to visit a classmate on the island.

“We are looking forward to the parade. It is rumoured to feature Mr and Mrs Ho this year,” said Alsa Lai, referring to a couple whose romance and familial bickering recently became the talk of the town.

The story of widower Ho, 76, marrying a 43-year-old mainland Chinese divorcee just a month after meeting – with his children believing their new stepmother to be a gold-digger – has set television and social media alight.

The teenagers said they were also enjoying the festive ambience but planned to leave the island after the parade.

The streets are packed for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival Photo: Elson Li

A Hong Kong-based Singaporean finance worker, who did not wish to reveal his name, said it was his second visit to the annual festival and he had brought his girlfriend along.

“Last year, I really enjoyed it. It felt like a very local experience,” said the man in his thirties.

His girlfriend, in her twenties, added: “I’m expecting a crowd, that’s the only reason I have never come here before.”

The couple hoped to sample a McDonald’s vegetarian burger available only at the Cheung Chau branch during the festival and also the famous ping an buns, but they were not staying for the competition because of Thursday being a work day.

The bun-scrambling competition is expected to start late at night, with results available after midnight.