Street Life: Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau

aberdeen cartoon cato sze

Aberdeen, a town in the southwest of Hong Kong Island, was named after George Hamilton-Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen and former Prime Minister of the UK. Apparently starting from the Ming Dynasty, ‘Hong Kong’ was the original name for present-day Aberdeen village, and when foreigners landed in the early 19th century, they mistook the name to mean the whole island and it eventually became common parlance. This is why even after Hong Kong was named, Aberdeen retained part of its origin in its Cantonese name ‘Hong Kong Tsai’, literally meaning ‘Little Hong Kong’.

aberdeen floating village


Aberdeen is famous for its floating village in Aberdeen Harbour. The 'Tanka' are traditionally boat people associated with the fishing industry, and there are still some of them living on boats in the harbour. You can hop on a sampan on either side of the harbour and it will take you on a little tour of the floating village. Look out for fishing birds sometimes perched on the stationary boats!

hung shing temple

Head to Aberdeen Square, where you’ll find on the corner of Nam Ning Street and Chengtu Road a tiny red temple right on the roadside. It looks very random, possibly an egregious planning error, but in fact the temple marks where the waterfront used to be. Following with tradition, residents in the past had built a temple by the waters, but as land reclamation progressed it ended up being shifted further and further inland. Dedicated to the God of the South Sea to ensure fishermen’s safety, the neighbouring island of Ap Lei Chau also has a Hung Shing Temple, estimated to have been built in 1773.

wind tower park ap lei chau

Leisure & Facilities

The waters of the harbour are flanked on opposite sides by the Aberdeen Promenade and the Ap Lei Chau Wind Tower Park. The Ap Lei Chau Wind Tower Park is a public parking spanning from Ap Lei Chau Bridge to the Ap Lei Chau Community Hall, and is decorated with monuments harking back to its marine and boatyard history, such as an off-shore trawler replica, a dragon boat, and an exhibition venue with old boat machinery parts and tools. There is also a community garden where little plots are available for people to rent and grow their own crops. The park’s eponymous wind tower is located at the far end and is a lookout tower designed like the sail of a traditional fishing boat. Solar photovoltaic panels and LED lights have been installed on the Wind Tower; the lights change colour according to wind speed and the panels collect solar energy which is then converted into electricity and used to charge the LED lights.

sin teng tor

The Aberdeen Typhoon Shelters consist of Aberdeen West Typhoon Shelter and Aberdeen South Typhoon Shelter. The West Shelter is located between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau, including Aberdeen Bay, while the South Shelter encompasses the area between Wong Chuk Hang and Ap Lei Chau, occupying a major portion of Aberdeen Channel with the Jumbo Kingdom in the centre. The area is protected from northeasterly monsoons by the mountain peaks in the northwest, and in the southwest, Ap Lei Chau wards off ocean swells from the South China Sea. The Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter is a big advantage that made Aberdeen one of Hong Kong’s largest fishing anchorages. 

jumbo floating restaurant

Food & Beverage

Jumbo Floating Restaurant is arguably Aberdeen’s most iconic landmark. Designed to resemble a floating palace from imperial China, it has attracted over 30 million visitors since its opening in 1976, counting big names such as Queen Elizabeth II, David Bowie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chow Yun Fat and Tom Cruise among its clientele. This huge floating barge is split into several sections, including a dim sum bar, a fine dining Chinese restaurant, a Chinese culinary school and a bronzeware exhibition among others. Along with the adjoining Tai Pak Floating Restaurant, the whole attraction is referred to as Jumbo Kingdom. You can access it free-of-charge by shuttle boat from Aberdeen Promenade. Make the trip during dusk, so its green and red hues aren’t muted and the decorative lights are also on—we honestly think it wouldn’t look out of place in a Studio Ghibli film. 

jumbo kingdom

Back ashore, Aberdeen is the birthplace of the noodle restaurant group Nam Kee. It started in the early 1980s and the popular noodles have now made it across Hong Kong in approximately 20 branches. Aberdeen Centre also has many other restaurant options such as fast food joints, cha chaan teng-style restaurants and international cuisine. Along Aberdeen Harbour, there are a range of floating restaurants—moored vessels which are now seafood establishments.