Aberdeen

Situated on the south side of Hong Kong Island, Aberdeen is nestled around a naturally protected harbor. Famous for its colorful floating seafood restaurant and boat people who live on junks in Aberdeen Harbour, the town has undergone massive changes in recent years. Originally a typhoon shelter and land base for seafarers, it used to be a charming fishing village and boat-building port, supported primarily by several thousand junks and boat people. Many of the boat people, however, have since been moved to massive housing projects, and the waterfront surrounding Aberdeen is now crowded with high-rises. At anchor are almost as many yachts as fishing boats and junks.

Still, Aberdeen continues to be popular with the tourist crowd because of its remaining boat population and floating restaurant. Women operating sampans will vie for your dollars to tour you around the harbor, which is definitely worth the price since it's about the only thing to do here and is the best way to see the junks. Although the boat population is shrinking, you'll pass huge boats that house extended families; you'll see men repairing fishing nets, women hanging out their laundry, dogs barking, children playing, and families eating. I find the ride rather voyeuristic but fascinating just the same. There was a time when a boat person could be born, live, marry, and die onboard, hardly ever setting foot on shore.

Nowadays, many young people move ashore to seek more stable employment.

A 20-minute tour from a licensed operator will cost approximately HK$60 (US$7.80/£4.30) per person and is offered daily between 9am and 5:30pm from the Aberdeen Centre promenade. There are also old women with wide-brimmed straw hats who will try to persuade you to board their sampan, with the price open to bargaining and depending on the numbers of tourists around at the time. On one particularly slow day, for example, I was offered, and took, a sampan tour for HK$50 (US$6.50/£3.55), and I was the only one in the boat.

Other Aberdeen attractions include the largest floating restaurant in the world -- Jumbo Kingdom, which offers both Cantonese restaurants and a rooftop seafood restaurant, with free shuttle service from the Aberdeen Centre promenade -- and a temple built in 1851. The temple is dedicated to Tin Hau, protectress of fishing folk, and is located at the junction of Aberdeen Main Road and Aberdeen Reservoir Road. A short taxi ride away is the huge Ocean Park amusement park with its thrill rides and aquarium.

To get to Aberdeen, take bus no. 7 from the Central Ferry Piers; bus no. 70 from the Exchange Square Bus Terminal in the Central District; bus no. 72 or 77 from Causeway Bay; or bus no. 973 from Tsim Sha Tsui.

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