Aberdeen Fishing Village, Hong Kong

Aberdeen Island also known as Hong Kong Island and is located at the Aberdeen Harbour in the Southern District of Hong Kong.

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A trip to Hong Kong would not be complete without sharing the experiences of the ‘boat people’ at the Aberdeen Fishing Village. This is perhaps one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most popular tourist attractions. Aberdeen used to be a little fishing village on Hong Kong Island but there are now as many yachts and sailboats as there are fishing trawlers and sampans. Nonetheless, the magic of this ancient fishing port remains and it continues to be a scenic highlight for any Hong Kong Island tour.

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The people living on boats in Aberdeen are mainly Tanka, a group which arrived in Hong Kong around the 7-9th century. While sometimes referred to as “boat people”, they are in fact boat dwellers and should not be confused with the unrelated Vietnamese refugee’s boat people, who came to Hong Kong by boat in the 1970s.

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Majority who lives in the fishing village are the old people, which they call themselves “senior citizens”. In Hong Kong, they don’t have retirement plans like what American’s or European’s have. They considered, 60 years old as a senior citizens. So at this age, they had to work and live. Hong Kong is a tax-free country place but I can say it’s the most expensive place that I had ever been.

Lifestyle and Culture Traditions…

Although now Aberdeen has been transformed into a semi-commercial district, it has still maintained the style of a fishing village. Some of the residents of Aberdeen actively engage in boat activities. They still mainly rely on the boat for daily living, working, and chatting amongst each other. Some common boat activities include: fish salt-processing, washing fish and driving and being a tour guide on the sightseeing sampans on the waterfront.

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The high rises blanket and surround the old style traditions of this bustling fishing village. On our Hong Kong Island tour we had a stop at Aberdeen fishing village and took a ride on a sampan. The sampan was decorated with red lanterns for Chinese New Year and the woman navigating through those busy waterways told us that she had actually made the boat herself. She lives in the village on a small junk boat and makes her living by offering sampan rides around her neighborhood village and over to the Jumbo Floating Restaurant which is lavishly yet ornately adorned with red and gold artwork and traditional dragon sculptures.

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We stopped a bit to photograph the Jumbo Floating Restaurant and just cruised along taking in the sights of the local people on their junk boats and watching them decorate for the Lunar New Year. It was so much fun just seeing how these people live. Families of four and five living on small junks with basically the bare necessities yet they wouldn’t have it any other way. There was one boat in particular which had a small black and white TV perched on a wooden table on the deck of the junk and because of this the family was considered to be “well off” because no one else even had a television. Yet, this simple village is surrounded on land by luxury skyscrapers and on the water by luxury yachts.

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The families in this village make their living by fishing and selling their catch to the nearby restaurants. They work sometimes 16 hour days and 7 days a week. This is a family tradition held down from generation to generation and is considered a gift. As a result they would never leave their surroundings. Some boat people drive and are tour guides for sightseeing sampans on the waterfront. When people are walking along the shore, the boat people would invite them for a boat travel to some small islands nearby or the surrounding area for around 20 to 30 minutes. The tour guide would introduce the scenic and special points of those areas to the tourists during the ride. After that, they will charge a fee of around $50 to $80 Hong Kong dollars. The charge fee will goes to the senior citizen’s for their living expenses. Basically, the fee is a charity for the senior citizens.

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There are many other people in Aberdeen who neither live nor work on boats. Most of these people consume fresh seafood from small-scale fish boats, or go to seafood restaurants to dine. There are two famous floating restaurants in Aberdeen: the Jumbo Floating Restaurant and the Tai Pak Floating Restaurant. In addition to food, non-boat people also go to the marine parks at the waterfront for leisure activities, such as doing exercise, stretching or simply chatting with their neighbors.

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Learning about these people, their lives and being able to visit their homes by way of the sampan navigating its way through the maze of junk boats was indeed an inspiring and wonderful experience.

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“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope”.  ~John Buchan

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