Monday, August 22, 2011

Come sail away

In the Western world, the word junk generally has negative connotations. We have a junk drawer, our old cars are sent to the junk yard, and that pile of unwanted stuff in the basement or attic is definitely junk. The first time I heard that you could go on a junk ride in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, I laughed aloud, thinking it was some sort of trash barge journey. Of course, I'd seen the beautiful teak boat with orange sails when we went down to the harbour, but I never put the two together.

Six years ago I'd stopped into the Hong Kong Tourism Board who uses the image of the boat above as their logo. I asked how we could book a ride. I was told that rides aboard the Junk Duk Ling (which was built in Macau 50+ years ago) were complimentary, but they had to be booked in advance and could only be booked by a visitor, not a resident, verified by looking in your passport. Unfortunately, we were residents and couldn't book in. So when my cousin Josh arrived from America for a month's stay, we had him go in and book the tickets on his visitor's visa and student i.d. card with the help of my friend Robbi, who was also in the country on a visitor's visa. Michael had to work that day, but the boys, Robbi, Josh, and I had a great time cruising around the harbour on a rainy afternoon. Today anyone can charter the Duk Ling for the day by clicking here.

Junks get their name from the Malay word for ship or large vessel, djong, which the Portuguese pronounced junco and the Dutch pronounce jonk. So really it has nothing to do with what we'd consider garbage! They date back all the way to the Han Dynasty (220 BC), and were made especially hardy to withstand the typhoons that strike this area each year. They were the first ships to be made with more than one mast and water tight hull sections that ensured if the ship took on water, the sailors would have time to bail it out of the individual sections rather than just flooding the entire hull. In the past 1000 years, traditional junk design hasn't changed at all. However, more modern boats made in China without sails are still called junks. And though we actually saw the old Duk Ling during our own junk ride, we were on a very modern junk.

The Duk Ling (with the orange sail)

Our modern junk!

Leaving the sweaty city behind

We cruised around for several hours, passing lots of tiny islands that made Macau look huge! Look at the tiny bump just above and to the right of Nathan's head!

All the kids climbed to the top of the junk while the adults enjoyed eating, drinking and chatting in the shade on deck.

Our destination was this beautiful cove, which was already filled with junks at anchor.

We'd barely dropped anchor before all the kids were leaping into the water. The brave ones were jumping and diving off the top. Nathan did, but Benjamin didn't. Later he said he regretted not doing it.

South China Sea waterlogged family portrait.

Michael found our location on his iPhone thanks to the wonders of Google Maps, and dropped a pin on the map, which was in Chinese. Later we were able to identify the island as Bluff Island or Sha Tong Hau Shan. Michael's amazing assistant Jennifer was able to give us this link about it. These uninhabited islands were formed during the Early Cretaceous period when there were volcanic eruptions pushing out of the sea. There was a sandy beach in the cove that we thought about swimming to, but with so many kids in the group we decided not to try. We were close to the rocks, but the few people who tried to get close to them found them to be very sharp, so we avoided them as well.

Everyone swam for about an hour, which flew by way too fast. Then it was time to make the long but relaxing trip back to the pier. All the stress of the last four months completely blew away in the sea breeze with such great company and scenery. 

Of course there was birthday cheesecake! Happy birthday Glen!

And all too soon we were back in Victoria Harbour.
It was a great day with friends old and new.
We are so happy to be back in Asia!
We said goodbye to our friends and boarded the MTR train to head to Lantau Island, destination Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel! After spending most of the day on a boat, starting with the ferry from Macau and then the five hour junk trip, all four of us felt like we were being rocked to sleep that night. We all had sweet dreams indeed!


  1. That is the coolest thing ever!! What an experience.

  2. great story and pictures... good writing... i'm being educated by you.. thanks.. daphne

  3. Thanks Daphne!

    Traci, we'll have to recreate the experience when the Hoffmann clan comes to Asia!

  4. It is fun to read all of your posts. I feel like I am re-living some of life that we've had through your writing. In fact, with this one, I really am able to re-live it since I was there!
    Hope to see you in November!


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