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Aberdeen Fishing Village
By Audrey

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. Having stayed most of my life on dry land, my last encounter with the Aberdeen Fishing Village sure did change my perception of 'life on water'.

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.

The harbor home consists of 600-odd junks that house over 6,000 of the boat people in Hong Kong. These brightly decorated trawlers, which double as floating homes for Aberdeen's fishing folks fill a sheltered harbor with hillsides decked with woodlands, Chinese cemeteries, and residential towers. For a fee of HK$100, a visitor can enjoy a 30-minute ride through the harbor, which will cover the incredible collection of marine life and the dynamic city-on-water.

You can also enjoy a succulent but overpriced seafood meal served at the many floating restaurants. Close-up views of these famous multi-decked floating restaurants can be seen on a boat ride. Their sumptuous 'Imperial' décor with thousands of colorful lights, gilded dragons and carved wood is as attractive as their Cantonese cuisine and fresh seafood. To encourage patronage, complimentary shuttle ferry services are also provided.

A short boat ride around the fishing village is an eye-opener. It made me wonder how people could live all their lives on a boat. But it is said that the fishermen will live their entire lives on the water, as they would be unfruitful or their boats would sink if they were to go ashore. Imagine the feeling of raising a family in this type of environment. And it never fails to amaze me how a reasonably large family could live comfortably and function normally on a tiny boat. I even saw several families with their pet dogs and birds staring at me. Talk about a normal life!

Planks of wood adjoin several boats, thus setting the base for a 'community on water'. I witnessed neighbors chatting away and a group playing mahjong on their boats, oblivious to their surroundings. I guess they are used to being a part of the tourism agenda. I also saw salted fishes hung out to dry at the top of many of these boats. I presume that to be one of their staple foods although the strong odor can be rather disturbing.

In town (on dry land), the harbor's maritime traditions are most evident in chandlers and seafarers' temples. The oldest temple, which was built in 1851, is dedicated to the goddess of the sea, Tin Hau. This temple, which looks shabby for most parts of the year, comes alive during the Tin Hau Festival in April with thousands of gaily-decorated boats converging on Aberdeen's shores.

Overall, Aberdeen is a true cultural experience, full of bright colors, strange sounds, and mystifying odors.

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