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All aboard the Dukling: How the junk boat turned a Hong Kong icon

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(CNN) — You may not know what a junk boat is, but odds are significant that you’ve found 1.

The junk boat — tall and picket with its a few bright-red sails glowing in the Victoria Harbor daylight — is a person of the most legendary visual symbols of Hong Kong.

These vessels are usually depicted on postcards, retro travel posters, keychains, T-shirts, ceramics and even the brand of the city’s tourism board. But when it will come to finding a junk in current-working day Hong Kong, you can have to glance a great deal harder.

Dukling is the past remaining Hong Kong junk boat obtainable for community use. In her to start with daily life, Dukling was built in 1955 and was household for a seafaring neighborhood relatives.

She is 18 meters long and weighs 50 tons, offering locals and site visitors alike a possibility to experience Hong Kong’s person-designed and purely natural splendor from the drinking water.

It can be quick to overlook that Hong Kong just isn’t a one island — it is an archipelago. Even though receiving out on the h2o is a fantastic way to truly feel the wind on your experience on a sizzling working day, it really is also a way to have an understanding of the form and scope of this wildly assorted town.

Like so a lot of tourist sights all over the entire world, Dukling is at chance of closure owing to low customer figures amid the pandemic. Presently, she is only out there for non-public charters thanks to Hong Kong’s virus restrictions.

Prior to coronavirus, there have been a few sailings a working day on weekends with a maximum of 40 travellers just about every. The Saturday itinerary created a number of stops in Kowloon including Tim Sha Tsui, though Sunday’s went from Central to North Position. The night sailing was timed for viewing the Symphony of Lights, a nightly show where by skyscrapers along the harbor gentle up their windows in fun layouts and shades just following dusk.

When the harbor was total of crimson sails

Libby Chan, assistant curator at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, clarifies that several of the early residents of Hong Kong arrived from two teams — all those who lived their lives on land (Hakka) and all those who lived their lives at sea (Tanka).

As not long ago as the 1970s, lots of Hong Kongers lived, worked, ate and slept on board these wood boats, periodically pulling into storm shelters or docks together the town shoreline to market their wares and stock up on provides. Beginning in the 1970s, quite a few locals traded in their boat residences for apartments in Hong Kong’s now-popular tall housing estate blocks, supplying up their lives at sea for extra reliably compensated work in factories or offices.

The Dukling sails on Victoria Harbour.

Dan Hodge/CNN

But how did junks become synonymous with Hong Kong?

Chan claims it all begun when Westerners 1st arrived to the Pearl River Delta — invariably, they arrived by sea.

“The initial group of people who met traders ended up boat men and women. You can see loads of depictions of boat folks in a incredibly lovely way by Western artists. Starting from that working day, the junk became the emblem of Hong Kong.”

Even the title “Dukling” is a mix of contemporary and traditional Hong Kong. Her Chinese title is Ap ling ho: Ap indicates duck, ling signifies soul or spirit, and ho is a way of indicating a “the” in front of a name. So a rough English translation could be “the holy duck.” Her first owner believed the front of the boat looked like a duck’s head.

On the other hand, If you google “junk boat,” you get pages on webpages of photographs of vessels covered in trash. Look for “duckling” and you can expect to get adorable pictures of downy infant ducks. “Duck boat” conjures up individuals hybrid drinking water-land crafts that vacationers consider by San Francisco and Seattle.

So the present proprietor, regional businessman Hazen Tang, opted to deliberately misspell the identify Dukling in buy to greater sport the research engine machine.

dukling junk boat

Junk boats were being once ubiquitous not just in Hong Kong but in the course of the Pearl River Delta.

Dan Hodge/CNN

Restoring a historic vessel

Dukling’s background parallels that of Hong Kong’s.

The boat’s primary owners, regional shrimpers, marketed her to a Frenchman who applied the boat for recreation, not whole-time dwelling. Subsequent, the Frenchman bought Dukling to a British expat who finished up transferring again to his homeland and abandoning the boat, the place she sank throughout a typhoon in 2014.

Rescuing Dukling from the South China Sea was a complicated, multi-calendar year ordeal. First, the metropolis had to monitor down the erstwhile operator in the British isles and get authorization to provide her up. Then she was repaired in Zhuhai, which needed supplemental permits as the town is element of mainland China. The following action was acquiring carpenters and repairmen who still know how to care for wooden boats.

Existing proprietor Tang is a Hong Konger who was keen to get her back into local fingers — and into Victoria Harbor. His business, HS Vacation Worldwide Business Restricted, is a tourism company centered in Hong Kong but with workplaces throughout Asia.

The completed products is a beautiful, dwelling piece of background that commenced plying the waters for visitors in 2015. Charlotte Yi, director of business enterprise improvement for Dukling’s mother or father firm, states that 80% of the boat is initial.

The original wooden wheel is continue to made use of to steer the boat, but it is really so heavy that crew associates can only operate it for two several hours at a time in advance of receiving drained.

dukling junk boat

It is traditiional for Dukling crew to pray to the sea goddess Matsu (also spelled Mazu) to request for luck and safety on every sailing.

Dan Hodge/CNN

Dukling’s makeover did not only prolong to infrastructure. It turns out that the well-known pink sails are not so pink — they are basically an orangey-brown colour that appears to be like additional crimson in the vibrant Hong Kong daylight.

There is even now a smaller shrine to the sea goddess Matsu in the vicinity of the entrance of the boat that crew users bow to and set incense in front of in get to desire for a blessed voyage, but in this period girls are permitted to go into this entrance portion of the vessel, though in fishing instances it was strictly forbidden.

Aside from Dukling, readers to Hong Kong may spy two very similar boats in Victoria Harbour.

Aqualuna is a local tourism company that designed two replica junks, each of which will ferry guests up and down the harbor numerous times for every day, most notably at sunset when skyscrapers along the waterfront light up their exteriors for a exhibit.

While the two corporations could see each individual other as opposition, Li insists that there is no rivalry since the owners of Dukling and Aqualuna want the exact matter — to preserve the city’s maritime heritage.

“They have the heart and they want to preserve junk boats in Victoria Harbour,” she suggests. “There is no ‘real’ or ‘unreal’.” Li notes that Dukling is only able of carrying 40 passengers at a time, though the two Aqualuna boats can every single match up to 90.

The place to obtain boat lifestyle nowadays

As Hong Kong continues to grow and much more than 50 % its land is shielded for city parks and public green areas, locating spots to develop new households is constantly a problem. One particular of the most popular tactics is land reclamation, typically alongside the harborfront. Like the tourism field since the pandemic, Victoria Harbour has literally been shrinking.

But even though quite a few Tanka persons moved onto land, there are continue to traces of their way of daily life all over the city that enhance a journey on Dukling.

Hong Kong’s identify means aromatic harbor, which was influenced by the crimson incense burned in temples committed to Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea. (She and Matsu are interchangeable — Matsu indicates “mother of the sea.”) To this working day, dozens of Tin Hau temples dot the islands of the Hong Kong archipelago.

In some neighborhoods the place Tanka people today resettled — like Tai Po in the New Territories — it is even now probable to see bits of the “previous way” of everyday living at significant activities like weddings and funerals. Numerous boat men and women communicated by way of classic songs, known in English as saltwater tunes.

dukling junk boat

Sail colors indicated a family’s position. Wealthier fishing households could manage brown or purple cloth sails.

Dan Hodge/CNN

“The dialect of the boat folks is various from Cantonese, but they have some overlaps. It truly is a incredibly outdated dialect. It is really a pretty complicated audio and it is really effortless to sing,” says Chan.

Some music ended up about navigation — greatest routes to acquire to avoid storms, for instance — though others have been about courtship or loved ones. “It is portion of our intangible heritage,” Chan provides.

The Maritime Museum has been in a position to film some aged men and women singing these tunes and conversing in their dialect in order to make sure this “intangible heritage” is not shed for good. It is really section of the permanent collection of the museum, which is positioned — properly — at Central Piers on Hong Kong Island, the exact same position where you can board ferries to Lamma Island and Cheung Chau.

Irrespective of all the adjustments that have taken area in and all-around Victoria Harbour, the waterway even now has home for conventional junk boats — as extended as there is certainly water to sail on, Dukling plans to sail on it.

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