I had a chance to check out the Taipei 2007 Dragon Boat Races down at the river this year. Per Wikipedia, the tradition can be summarized as follows:
The exact origins of Duan Wu originated in ancient China. One traditional view holds that the festival memorializes the Chinese poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC-278 BC) of the Warring States Period. He committed suicide by drowning himself in a river because he was disgusted by the corruption of the Chu government. The local people, knowing him to be a good man, decided to throw food into the river to feed the fish so they would not eat Qu Yuan's body.
Naturally, this holiday is not celebrated in modern day China - no doubt the Communist regime had no desire to venerate a day of opposing the government, and summarily did away with the holiday all together.
Taiwan, on the other hand, along with various other countries with ethnic Chinese residents, has a great time with this one in spite of/to spite the mainland. There were attendees and racers from all over the world, including South Africa, the Philippines, the US, etc. Lots of expats also turned out to watch the races despite the 35C (95F) weather.
To be honest, the races weren't nearly as dramatic as I had expected them to be - even the final race was a little anticlimactic. Still, the crowds were friends, the racers and their friends/family were definitely pumped, and the atmosphere was highly enjoyable, so it was worth braving the heat.
I'm going to try something new for this particular post. I brought my camcorder with me for this trip and I figured I'd use the software that came with it to try putting together a little video to capture the day. It's my first attempt, and frankly the software did most of the work, but let me know what you think.