Among the slides my mom took in 1962, I found several from Aberdeen, the area on the southern end of Hong Kong Island. Known for its floating restaurants, Aberdeen was a must-see on the tourist circuit back then. And even now.
It was such a popular tourist destination in 1962 that American soft drink companies and Swiss watch makers invested in prominent advertisements, as seen in this slide.
When I first moved to Hong Kong twenty years ago, my mom told me about her day trip to Aberdeen. The hundreds, if not thousands of people who lived on sampans and junks, the floating restaurants, the breathtaking mountains and sea.
To reach the floating restaurants, you’d board a little sampan to be whisked out to the large restaurant floating out in the harbor. My mom ate at the Tai Pak (the famous Jumbo didn’t appear on the scene until the 1970s). The Sea Palace was another long-term floatie, but it was later towed to Australia.
Within my first month in Hong Kong, I took a bus to Aberdeen with a fellow exchange student. We walked around the old temples juxtaposed among towering modern high rise apartment blocks. We stumbled upon a Chinese cemetery and ate lunch at a modest noodle shop. But we didn’t wander out to the floaties.
“The food is no good,” we’d heard fellow exchange students and local ones say about the floating restaurants. “Plus, only tourists go there.”
I was 19 years old, half a world from home, and stubborn. The last thing I wanted was to be a tourist.
Even three years later, when I moved back to Hong Kong and lived on a small island near Aberdeen for the summer, I didn’t eat at the Tai Pak or Jumbo. Over the next four years, a dozen friends and family visited from the US, but not once did we go to the floating restaurants at Aberdeen.
I kind of regret not going there. The floaties have been filmed in movies like “The Man with the Golden Gun”, “The World of Suzie Wong”, and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”, among others. I’m also sad I missed out completely on the real Shatin Floating Restaurant, close to where I lived in Hong Kong for most of my time there.