Done with junks? Five alternative boat trips in Hong Kong
From squid fishing to scuba diving, and from island-hopping to fine dining, there's more to Hong Kong waters than boozy junk trips
There are only so many photos you need of yourself jumping off a junk into the sea, right? Many Hongkongers would disagree, but as summer wears on it's worth looking at the boat-based fun to be had in the city beyond the usual all-day-boozing junk.
While filling a boat with food, friends and a load of drinks is a classic weekend activity, like all good things it can begin to wear thin with overuse. But fear not, because there are a few alternatives - ones which hopefully won't leave you drunk by lunchtime with a tomato-coloured sunburn.
Not so ugly Dukling
This is one of Hong Kong's real junks, and a symbol of the city's maritime roots. The recently relaunched Dukling is the only antique fishing junk still sailing in Hong Kong, and does harbour tours several times a day from Tsim Sha Tsui and Central piers.
Built in Macau in 1955, the 42-foot teak vessel was bought by an expat businessman in the 1980s, but eventually fell into barnacle-covered disrepair in Aberdeen Harbour. It was only recently saved from a state of near-dereliction when it was sent to Zhuhai to be restored to its former glory.
Plenty of the original features have been retained, although the boat doesn't rely on wind power anymore; there's an engine in the old fish storeroom, and customer toilets where the sailors' sleeping quarters used to be.
The route takes in the breadth of the harbour, and there's something iconic and quintessentially Hong Kong about those spined scarlet sails and the rattan baskets lining the sides of the boat. The 45-minute trip, which includes a complimentary drink, can get a bit bumpy at times, but it's a great way to see the city from the water, and a fantastic idea for entertaining visitors.
The new arrival has already had the celebrity seal of approval: Chinese-American NBA star Jeremy Lin was on board only last month.
Adults from HK$228, children/seniors from HK$158 (summer price). 1/F Kwok Leung Building, 352-354 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2368 8885
For something a little different, there are plenty of squid fishing trips which run as night junks, and late summer is the ideal time for it.
Setting off from Central pier, you take in the east side of the island as the sun sets and the boat heads to Junk Bay to drop anchor. A combination of glow-in-the-dark lures and lights off both sides of the boat attract the squid. Then you play the waiting game, probably with some drinks, which you can bring along yourself.
When you pull the squid in, take care to avoid the black ink that they are likely to squirt.
A generous buffet is included, but save some space because your hosts will cook whatever you catch, fresh from the sea. Never tried squid before? Now's your chance.
From HK$219 per person per trip. Grand Holiday International, 16/F Office Tower One, Grand Plaza, 625-639 Nathan Road, Mong Kok, tel: 2395 0788
Leave the skyscrapers behind
Why drop anchor in just one beautiful place? Groups who want more of a hop-on-hop-off experience would do well to charter a boat to cover the waters of arguably the city's most beautiful corner, Plover Cove.
A good place to start is Sam A, which is nice for a dip near the pier. You can charter a boat for the day, and an afternoon island-hop. Crooked Island (Kat O) is first up, with its six traditional villages.
Then head to Ap Chau - Robinson Island - with its unique geology making a great place for some photos, and Lai Chi Wo, said to be Hong Kong's oldest village that is still inhabited. After this you can take a long cruise through Yan Chau Tong Marine Park to Grass Island and finish your journey at Wong Shek Pier.
Charters available from Fook Lee Tea House, Sam A, tel: 9789 8295. Private boats from HK$1,500 for up to 9 people (itinerary negotiable)
A fine-dining experience in the middle of Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter? We kid you not.
Make a reservation at Kea's Kitchen, moored near Aberdeen Boat Club, a HK$10 sampan ride from the main pier. Guests are greeted at the entrance for a drink on deck with the chef before making their way to the beautiful dining area of this custom-built 63ft boat.
There is an intimate indoor room for up to 20 people, and the food has a Southeast Asian flavour. For a very special occasion, you can pay extra for a private party on the water. Private cooking classes are also available.
Set menu from HK$798 per person; private parties from HK$1,000 per person for 20 people. [email protected]
Splash Hong Kong's scuba diving junks sail from Sai Kung. The set-up is like most weekend junks, with beer and food provided on the 52-foot teak vessel. But instead of just bobbing around on an inflatable ring, guests can get the full scuba experience, with fully trained instructors in a safe environment.
Strap on your fins and explore life under the South China Sea. And while it might not be as plentiful or colourful as in the Philippines or Malaysia, there's still plenty to keep you occupied. On a good day you can expect to spot clownfish, groupers and seahorses, as well as coral.
Splash Hong Kong, unit 5, 1/F, 58-72 Fuk Man Road, Sai Kung, [email protected], tel: 9047 4495. Prices from HK$4,000 for up to 31 people.