Newly relocated Hong Kong Maritime Museum is a hidden gem

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 10:44am

The Maritime Museum is now - appropriately - located on Pier No 8 at the heart of Victoria Harbour.

We visit on a sunny Sunday expecting to find hordes of families escaping the early summer heat but the exhibits, set out over three floors, are largely uncrowded.

This is a surprise, largely because it is soon clear that this homage to all things maritime is a hidden gem.

The modern interiors, which resemble a ship's decks, are well laid out, with four spacious galleries on C deck divided into historical themes. These include the maritime traditions of ancient Chinese civilisations, with ceramics dating back to the Han dynasty, along with old nautical instruments and the early development of the harbour.

Alexandra, 15, was fascinated by the interactive iPad system, which allows traditional paintings of seafaring activities to be enlarged for detailed inspection, while 10-year-old Francesca was intrigued by the up-to-the-minute information on modern day piracy - complete with a digital map.

Interestingly, there were several young researchers on hand carrying out surveys to help identify ways to improve the displays.

B deck also includes a series of 100 beautifully crafted ships including a scale model of the Keying, a three-masted Chinese trading junk that was the first vessel of its kind to sail around the Cape of Good Hope.

[The lack of crowds] is a surprise, largely because it is soon clear that this homage to all things maritime is a hidden gem

Other galleries explore a wider range of more modern themes such as safety at sea and underwater diving.

Here, the highlight was a life-sized shipping container with a hands-on digital game to test how many containers can be loaded in a limited time without capsizing the boat.

The deck also includes the "Sounds of the Sea" and "People of the Sea" exhibitions. The former is an enticing mixture of natural sounds that you can hear from an ocean-going ship, sea-themed Canto-pop and sailor's ballads, among others. The opportunity to sound bells and ships horns adds to the authenticity of the experience.

Another attraction is the collection of historical artefacts, including passports, ship's menus and a timelessly stylish Louis Vuitton suitcase. The wave-like bench seating and Victoria Harbour-patterned carpet in the viewing area are thoughtful design touches.

The A deck is dedicated to communications, navigation and meteorology, with an interactive navigation bridge.

The museum is privately owned, with the various galleries sponsored by shipping companies and individuals with an interest in Hong Kong's maritime history. There are free daily guided tours in English and Cantonese.

Verdict: it's worth a visit for all ages, although, as with most other museums in Hong Kong, the very young are not well catered for. Signs and interactive games are in English and Chinese but their complexity is more suitable for ages eight and above. The museum seems to have missed the retail boat, however: its old-style shop features an uninspiring mix of postcards and trinkets.

Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Central Ferry Pier 8, tel: 3713 2500,