Hong Kong bids farewell to Jumbo Kingdom, the world’s largest floating restaurant

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Locals gathered on the waterfront to bid a final farewell to the floating restaurant.

About 260 feet long, the huge three-story jumbo floating restaurant was famous for its huge green and red neon sign, which read “Fun Ying Guang Lam,” Chinese “Welcome.” At its peak, it was part of the largest floating restaurant in the world.

For nearly half a century, it was the main boat of the Jumbo Kingdom, consisting of the older and younger sister restaurant boat Tai Pak (dated 1952), a barge for a seafood tank, a 130-foot-long kitchen boat, and eight. Small ferries to transport visitors from two nearby piers.

In recent years, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant was the only group operating and open for diners.

“The jumbo floating restaurant has left Hong Kong today,” Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprise Limited, the company that owns and operates Jumbo Kingdom, confirmed in a statement issued after the towing was completed.

“A unique icon for residents and tourists alike, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant has been proud of Hong Kong Island’s Southern District for the past 46 years.

“We truly thank all of you for your love and care. We take this opportunity to send you our best wishes for a brighter future,” the statement said.

Remember a sign

CNN Travel Visited the restaurant in 2018 – Filming its seafood barge, its main restaurant boat and its beautiful, rarely seen place floor as well as talking to some of its longest serving staff.

He was a very close neighbor of CNN’s Hong Kong office. On a sunny day, the Jumbo Kingdom was a favorite subject for photographing through office windows.

The restaurant certainly looked worn out compared to its glorious days, but it still has a sleek old-world charm.

The approach to the floating restaurant – accessible only by special jumbo-branded boats – was one of the most dramatic restaurant entrances in the world.

Upon arrival, you’ll see plenty of colorful Chinese-style specimens, including a grand royal-style facade with reliefs covering the entire wall, huge commissured paintings on the stairs, and a golden throne in the dining hall.

It was covered Neon lightsA local Hong Kong craft that has begun to disappear as the city modernizes.
A young Kenny Chan poses at a jumbo in the 1990s.

A young Kenny Chan poses at a jumbo in the 1990s.

Courtesy CU Explorer Travel Ltd.

“Jumbo was a designated place for Dim Sum for us. Jumbo made more sense as my parents and I held our wedding banquet there. For many of us it is a tradition that originated from a fishing or boating background, our host The wedding banquet at Jumbo, “says Kenny Chan, founder of Seayou Explorer Travel Ltd..

Chan’s parents were from a fishing village family living in the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter. His wife also grew up on the boat.

“I can still remember how excited I was as a kid whenever I got a chance to hop on a sampon and visit a jumbo. The ride wasn’t just transport – it made us feel like we were visiting a palace. There are other places in Hong Kong that can convey the same feeling. “

Those fond memories of his childhood at the port’s Aberdeen Fishing Village prompted him to explore CU in 2018. The company offers private charter services as well as a Sampan cultural tour called the Aberdeen 1773 Cultural Tour which includes a stop at its first Jumbo Kingdom. Departure

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“The cultural, symbolic and tourism value of the jumbo is significant and cannot be quantified … We understand that maintaining the jumbo can be challenging. We are disappointed to see the government jeopardizing its own plan. [to invigorate the neighborhood] Set in 2020 and his decision not to “interfere” [in Jumbo’s fate]Says Chan.

Floating wonder

In its golden days, the restaurant ship starred in many local and international movies, including “Enter the Dragon” (starring Bruce Lee opposite Tai Pak), “Spider-Man: The Dragon Challenge” and Stephen Chowney’s comedy “God of Cookery”. ”

It was a “necessary” stop to visit celebrities including Queen Elizabeth II and the late Prince Philip, Jimmy Carter, Chow Eun Fat, Elizabeth Taylor and Tom Cruise.

“A restaurant on this scale on a floating structure is quite unique in the world. It reflects Hong Kong’s close relationship with the sea and its history,” says Charles Lai, an architect and founder. Hong Kong Architectural History.

“Some reject its architectural significance because it was just ‘Fox’ royal design but I disagree – it’s an interesting endeavor. [at] Transformation of floating space [into] An ancient Chinese palace. If we look at the historical context, it was built at a time when this imperial-style Chinese aesthetics was not even promoted in China (“old things” were removed during the Cultural Revolution). So the Jumbo Kingdom reflects how the Chinese in Hong Kong had a greater longing or passion for these old Chinese traditions. “

Jumbo Kingdom_Night View

At night the view of the restaurant is illuminated by its famous neon lights.

Courtesy of Jumbo Kingdom

The end of an era

Of course, his golden age did not last.

As the fishing population on Aberdeen Harbor is declining, the Jumbo Kingdom has become less popular with locals and tourists alike.

The company revealed that the restaurant has been running at a loss since 2013 Nationwide epidemic of Kovid-19 And then the city lockdown took a final hit.

In March 2020, restaurant owners stated that they had accumulated over HKD100 million ($ 13 million) in losses and announced that the restaurant would remain closed until further notice.

Many proposals were put forward to preserve the historic landmark, but the high cost of maintaining it deterred potential investors.

Even the Hong Kong government does not seem keen to get involved.

The Antiquities Advisory Board ruled that ships – unlike buildings on land – are not part of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, meaning the jumbo does not qualify for city security.

Without the city waiting for the “White Knight” rescuer, the group decided to move the jumbo floating restaurant, the main boat, to an unknown shipyard away from Hong Kong before its operating license expires in June.

Tai Pak, small and old boats, as well as the recently overturned kitchen boat, are still parked at the port. So far nothing has been confirmed about the future of these boats.

Whatever happens then, Hong Kong has lost the biggest – and most glamorous – jewels from its crown.

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