Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HKTrip13 - Day 1

This installment covers some highlights of Day 1, including a visit to the Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen.

Jumbo Kingdom
Jumbo Kingdom is a very well known restaurant and also a tourist attraction in its own right. Unlike most other restaurants, Jumbo Kingdom is actually built atop a large barge floating in the Aberdeen South Typhoon Shelter. This means that to get to the restaurant, you need to hop onto a small ferry which takes you out to the restaurant. Another notable aspect of this place is that it designed in the style of ancient Chinese architecture - particularly that of the emperor's palace.

On the day we headed there, they were actually preparing for Dr Stanley Ho's birthday celebrations. For those who don't know, this guy is one of the mega-rich guys around this region, who made his fortune running what was for many years the only casino in Macau, and has a somewhat "merry" family situation (with 3+ wives and the assorted squabbles that this ensues). He's also the owner of this restaurant. So, that day, they'd already rolled out the red carpet (see photos below), with a big welcoming wall on the third floor lobby area (I didn't get a shot of this, as it wasn't until after I'd left that I realised who the hell the guy the thing referred to actually was XD).

The Pier
This is where you go to head down to board one of the little ferries. As can be seen, the red carpet has been rolled out already.

Note how all this is decorated in the ancient Chinese architectural tradition. We used to have a similar restaurant in Christchurch when I was a kid (until about 1996-7, when it went bust) which we went to for dim sum (and was where I first encountered Char Leong).
At the end of the pier, looking out towards the Jumbo Kingdom barge on the opposite end. In between, there are many fancy super yachts parked in the typhoon shelter, waiting for their rich owners to come and head out for some fun.

At the very end of the pier, there are a group of dragon heads spouting water. These mirror a similar display on the other end, except that over there, they are all aimed at a golden ball. This probably all serves some kind of "fung shui" purposes ;)

The Restaurant and Ferries
The restaurant as seen from the other end of the bay. As can be seen, it is actually quite large in practice. In the background, many new apartment blocks have been built over the years on the hills surrounding the typhoon shelter.

The restaurant and one of the ferries that takes you out to the restaurant. There are two of these, which loop between the two terminals. They are each staffed by a crew of 2 - a kindly old man who drives and steers the craft, and another whose job involves carrying a long stick with a hook on the end which is used to mount and unmount the ropes used to pull the ferry close to the shore the let passengers on and off.

Ferry Trip
The ferry trip across to the restaurant is a short and gentle one. Like the restaurant and the piers, the ferries are also decorated in a similar way...

One of the ferries. Here, one of the crew members prepares to pick up the ropes used to moor the ferry to the piers using the stick he's holding...

Another view of the ferry now that it has been moored...

 Pulling away (after first reversing) from the pier...

View of the arrival pier from Jumbo

One of the luxury yachts parked in the typhoon shelter. It was quite interesting seeing all of these yachts up close, and noticing that they were all really shiny and polished.

 Apart from Jumbo, there's another floating restaurant that also operates in this bay (called Tai Pak). 

There are also smaller ships (run by "Big Bus Tours"), which apparently take tourists out and serve them other traditional types of cuisine only found in sea-faring communities.

Siding up alongside the restaurant's main entrance...

The Entrance
The entrance to Jumbo is decorated in heaps of red, gold, and dragons - all auspicious Chinese symbols/traditions.

Disembarking from the ferry... On the other end, the red carpet had already been laid for Dr Stanley Ho (presumably, the other end is his "private entrance").

There be dragons - fierce looking ones with claws, and whiskers, teeth, and evil red eyes! (Note: the eyes were really more of a deep red colour instead of the magenta-ish looking colour seen here).

On this end, the dragon heads spouting water do so aimed at a golden ball...

Yaarrrggggh!!! There be dragons, curled around the columns! Look at the claws on some of these things. Also note the scraps of red carpet and ramps which have been laid out.

Inside the Restaurant
The ancient Chinese theming continued on inside the restaurant, though it also had some modern touches. There are 3 levels: 1) a ballroom, 2) fine dining, 3) yum-char and general Chinese dining

The first flight of stairs after entering the building

Wall detail on second floor

In the 3rd-floor lobby, there's a giant mural on the wall made out of ceramic mosaic tiles which have been assembled to form a grand mural spanning the entire wall.

An overall impression of the foyer area - 2nd and 3rd floors can be seen. Note the mix of Chinese and Western decor styles here...

 Panelling and staircase details - more dragons and gold stuff...

Lunch that day were various dim sum delicacies. In addition to some of the standard favourites, they also had a few interesting pastries including daan saan (sort of like deep fried wontons, except it's just the pastry with no filling and a sticky sweet honey/syrupy sauce), glutinous rice balls with mango filling covered in coconut, and mango pudding.
 The third-floor dining hall..

Another view of the decor
At the end of the room, there was a throne-room setup for people to take photos. This is built in the style of the thrones used by the emperors (central seat) and his multiple wives (queen + consorts).

Seafood Exhibition
Out the back, they have an area (in a separate by connected barge) that they call the "Seafood Exhibition". This is basically an area where they've got a bunch of tanks where they keep all kinds of seafood which they then cook and serve to customers.

Inside the Seafood Exhibition. This was laid out in clusters/pods, with each pod containing multiple tanks, and a central tank in the middle showcasing one or two large fish.
These fish in particular were especially impressive. They were massive and quite aggressive!

Assorted Architecture and Sights
Hung Hom
 Whampoa Gardens...
Roadworks (quite a few streets in that area have major roadworks under way, and have been like that for at least a year). This shot was taken from an overbridge over the busy motorway (which can only be crossed via these overbridges)

Contrast and compare: Older-style buildings (Whampoa Gardens) versus newer apartments (some random tower as seen somewhere along the motorway).
Wan Chai
 Golden Dragon statue

In the street leading up to the dragon, there were literally dozens of shops dedicated to selling lighting. And they were nearly all like this: jam packed with more lights than you'd imagine possible to fit within such a small space! Quite a sight to behold!

Overlooking the typhoon shelter were various modern and tall apartment blocks with interesting designs.
 This cluster of houses/apartments have an interesting design.

This block of apartments is quite striking. Besides being massive, the monotony and colour scheme of this building add to its overpowering appearance.

Ocean Park
Following lunch, we went to Ocean Park, since it was located nearby. After leaving the tunnel connecting Aberdeen with Central, you'll pass by the Hong Kong Jockey Club (which originally owned/started the park). Ocean Park is located on one of the side roads off the roundabout nearby, while Jumbo can be reached from the other branch. There's too much to mention here about the sights and attractions there to mention, so I've split that into a separate post.

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