Aberdeen is a town sited on the south side of Hong Kong Island. The town’s most famous feature is Aberdeen Harbour, which lies between Aberdeen and the island Ap Lei Chau. In Aberdeen, modernity meets tradition with skyscrapers overlooking a community living on traditional junks.
Aberdeen in Hong Kong has long prospered off of sea-based industries from the boom of the city’s fishing industry in the early 20th century to its oil industry today. Aberdeen is an old traditional fishing village to which is hard to find in any other parts of the world.
It is famous to tourists for the boat people living in the harbor and the floating seafood restaurants such as the Jumbo Floating Restaurant – one of the world’s largest floating restaurants. Designed like a Chinese palace, the restaurant can seat up to 2,300 diners in a multi-faceted complex, which includes a tea garden and a gourmet restaurant serving high-quality traditional Chinese and modern fusion dishes.
The boat people are generally associated with the fishing industry, and there are also several dozen expatriates living on boats in the harbor. You may gain a deeper insight of the lifestyle of Hong Kong fishing folks by riding on a sampan.
Development History of Aberdeen
Aberdeen has been a fishing port and home to the Tanka and Hoklo clans who originated from the mainland coastal areas of Guangdong and Fujian provinces for generations.
The original Chinese settlement on this harbour was named Hong Kong. It was one of the first places British troops came ashore in 1841 and when British seafarers landed here in the 19th century they mistook the name of the village for the name of the entire island. The settlement was subsequently renamed Aberdeen after George Hamilton Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen (Scotland), the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies at the time. Its Chinese name is “Heung Gong Tsai” meaning “little fragrant harbour” with “fragrant” being a reference to incense wood for burning in worship which was grown in the New Territories, collected at Tsim Sha Tsui and then sent in junks to Aberdeen for export. The name was later anglicised and Hong Kong became the name by which the whole territory is now known.
After inhabited by British, in addition to fishing, the Aberdeen area also began to develop industry. In 1857, Xiapu Shipyard was found, being the first large shipyard in Hong Kong, and later in the 1860s it was acquired by Hong Kong and Whampoa Dockyard and became one of Hong Kong’s four largest dockyards. In early 20th century, a large paper mill was built in eastern area of Aberdeen, but in the 1920s because of the expansion of Aberdeen Reservoir, the water in this place can no longer be used by the mill, the site was later developed into the Aberdeen Children’s craft school (now Aberdeen Industry school).
With the development of the times, many fishermen in Aberdeen in the 1960s had moved to live on nearby land. It currently has a population of about 60,000 and is the largest town on Hong Kong Island. The town is sheltered by the small densely populated island of Ap Lei Chau to which it has been connected by bridge since 1983.
An Aberdeen Tourism Project to enhance the town as a tourist destination took place during 2012/2013 which has seen beautification of promenades along both sides of the harbour, improved signage and boarding and disembarking facilities, snack kiosks and local information boards.
Fishing is not the only industry in Aberdeen and the town also has shipyards, light manufacturing businesses, engineering works, textile factories and warehouses. For tourists the main attraction is the harbour and its floating restaurants.
Highlights to See in Aberdeen
【Sightseeing Sampan Rides】Sampan rides, mostly operated by elderly Tanka and Hoklo women, are a popular way to explore the colorful and crowded harbor. Sightseeing sampans operate from various points along the length of promenade and there is no need to pre-book.
The sampan ride takes in the junks, sampans, trawlers and houseboats crammed together and passes under the Ap Lei Chau Bridge to the floating restaurants, luxury pleasure craft moored in Aberdeen Marina at Sham Wan and the shipyards lining both sides of the harbour. About 5000 people still live on boats in the harbour and washing lines, pot plants and fishing nets being repaired often adorn the decks. These days boats are equipped with the comforts of modern life such as satellite TV, washing machines and refrigerators.
【Enjoy a Meal in Floating Restaurants】
Enjoying a meal in a floating restaurant would be a unique experience in Aberdeen. There are many floating restaurants in Aberdeen typhoon shelter. the largest floating restaurant would be the triple-deck Jumbo restaurant, elaborately decorated in the theme of a Chinese Imperial Palace with pagodas and gold dragons. It can accommodate over 2000 diners at one time, and rather dwarfs its smaller neighbor to which it is linked by walkways. The restaurants look out to the luxury yachts of the exclusive Aberdeen Marina Club to the front and the high-rise blocks of Ap Lei Chau to the rear. Jumbo Kingdom also has conference and banqueting facilities and a Cooking Academy. Diners can also enjoy a Typhoon Shelter seafood meal aboard a sampan, sample various kinds of tea in the Chinese Tea Garden or enjoy a glass of wine in the Pier Plaza.
Frequent free shuttle boats operate to the floating restaurants from both Aberdeen Promenade and Sham Wan Pier. Journey time is about ten minutes.
Aberdeen Park has beautiful environment. It is suitable for excursion outing. In the park offers a variety of recreational facilities suitable for different categories of people, including burn oven, places to play Tai Chi , children’s amusement facilities, fitness path, etc.
【Tin Hau Temple】
Located inland at the junction of Aberdeen Main Road and Aberdeen Reservoir Road the Tin Hau Temple, built in 1851, is dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea and protector of fisherfolk. Tin Hau was a 10th century girl who used her special powers to save her father from drowning and is worshipped by boat people. The temple which originally looked out to sea is one of many Tin Hau temples throughout Hong Kong.