River Hongbao gets a VR twist

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River Hongbao will feature a high-tech twist, with virtual lanterns and VR glasses for visitors

From virtual flying lanterns to a performance by local heart-throb Nathan Hartono, this year's River Hongbao at The Float @ Marina Bay is looking to draw a younger crowd.

A mobile app, slated to be launched on Jan 18, will allow users to send Chinese New Year wishes that will appear as writing on sky lanterns on screens.

And when you visit River Hongbao, you will be able to put on virtual reality glasses to take in a 360-degree view of the flying lanterns.

River Hongbao has been part of local Chinese New Year festivities since 1987, with this year's edition running from Jan 26 to Feb 4. The free event is expected to draw more than a million visitors.

Opening hours are from 2pm to 11pm daily, but will be extended until 1am on Jan 27, Chinese New Year's Eve.

There will be more than 60 lantern displays, including the main 53m-long, 13m-high lantern set piece bearing the image of a rooster, and upcoming landscapes featuring Jewel Changi Airport and Punggol Eco-town.

Singer Hartono will perform on the opening night.

Other acts to look forward to include xinyao and getai songs by local artists, and performances by overseas troupes such as the acclaimed Chongqing Song and Dance Troupe.

Visitors can go on rides and play games, shop and eat at more than 30 booths and stalls.

An exhibition, The More We Get Together: Major Festivals In Singapore, will celebrate the Lion City's multicultural heritage.

Despite the slowing economy, there will be fireworks for two to three minutes on all 10 days, similar to last year's nine-day event. Said the event's vice-chairman Chong Kee Hiong, who is also an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC: "Some organisations have had to reduce the amounts they contributed, but we have been able to find more funds from other sources."

River Hongbao 2017 is jointly organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Tourism Board and the People's Association.

Student Val Teo, 19, who plans to attend the event, welcomed the idea of a mobile app for virtual lanterns, "especially since it's hard to fly physical lanterns in the sky in Singapore".

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