Of the many deviant practices of the Orient, none can compare to ‘the choking’ festival which is celebrated in Hong Kong’s fishing district Choking Edge on Pong Road.
Choking Edge is famous for body fishing and not as one might have thought for asphyxiation. Body fishing is the age old custom of catching fish with your body parts instead of a hook and line. This art was perfected in Choking Edge by the leader of the British Orient Expedition, sent by Queen Victoria to find the perfect fish for her Christmas lunch. She was aware of the proliferation of fish off the coast of Hong Kong and sent Lieutenant Charles ‘Pong’ Alfred St. John-Smythe to investigate and land a large one. His nickname ‘Pong’ was born from the smell of rotten fish that clung to him after his 10-year search for the Queen’s fish.
Pong learned from locals as he watched them dip body parts into water, sometimes coated with juices that attract fish, and then pluck them out the water.
This is a highly-specialized fishing method in which the fish must be approached with great caution. It is estimated that over 1,200 people every year lose fingers, toes, noses, ears and penises (yes penises, especially good for landing small sharks).
The main fishing drag, Choking Edge, was named for the number of people who died from using their tongues to catch fish and getting them caught in their throats. Pong Road is of course named after our famous lieutenant.
The festival starts on the last Sunday of August and runs for a week. Games are set up for children, teasing fish from buckets with their fingers and games for adults such as 俄罗斯轮盘赌鱼 or Russian Fish Roulette, where adults dip their blood-soaked fingers or toes into a tank that may or may not contain starved piranhas.
The main event is split into two competitions for individuals and teams. Individual competitions are based on the single biggest fish landed and team is the combined weight.
It’s advisable to book early as hotels get pretty full around the festival dates. To take part in the competition you must sign the official government waiver, you will not be covered by medical insurance and loss of limbs will not be compensated for.
Post-competition attractions include fishbone dancing where locals spread a layer of dried fishbones on the ground and dance barefoot. This is not for faint hearted, it can get pretty bloody. Also not to be missed is the Fish Jesus competition where local fisherman nail three men to three crosses and float them out to sea. The first one to free himself, and swim to shore with a fish wins.
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