Tai Pak Floating Restaurant, Aberdeen
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been inside – only chugged past on a junk admiring the external decoration – but I have decided to include this on my blog because of its history and profile in various movies.
For most tourists the Jumbo floating restaurant is the most well known but its history is somewhat limited to just the last few decades. The Tai Pak on the other hand was established in 1952 and has therefore seen a lot more action and its age makes it worthy of a mention. It was established when HK waters were nice and clean and there was an abundance of fresh catch available just by throwing a net over the side. Sadly this is no longer the case as most seafood is now imported as a result of decades of over-fishing and general abuse of the local marine environment.
The Tai Pak is built on a 105ft long boat and was the first custom made vessel for this particular purpose and its luxurious decor soom became a focal point for the jet set. This may have been helped by “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” which had some scenes filmed there in 1955, shortly after it opened. The scenes include William Holden and Jennifer Jones boarding a tuk-tuk from the Tai Pak ferry pier and boarding the vessel for an evenings dining. The colour and decor may have changed over the years but a quick look at the main columns at the front entrance reveals the same pattern (an abstract oriental cloud pattern with an entwined dragon) hasn’t changed in the 50+ years since the film was made. See for yourself below.
The ‘final’ arrival of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in 1976 (‘final’ because it was due to open in 1971 but suffered a massive fire on 30th Oct 71 which killed 34 people) saw a decline in the Tai Pak’s fortunes, ‘Jumbo’ was huge in comparison and could seat up to 2000 people at a time, as opposed to Tai Pak’s 400.
As time went on the other two floating restaurants (this included the “Sea Palace” that was featured in the 1960 film “The World of Suzie Wong” – starring William Holden again) were taken over by the Jumbo’s management company (Melco – owned by Stanley Ho the Macao casino magnate) and together they became known as the Jumbo Kingdom. The Sea Palace is unfortunately no more (I believe it was sold to someone in Australia and was moved there) but the Tai Pak lives on and still attracts a lot of attention despite the proximity of its huge neighbour.
Here is another screen shot, this time from “Enter the Dragon”, which shows the Tai Pak and Sea Palace in Aberdeen Harbour in 1973 (note also the Ap Lei Chau power station in the background which marks the position of today’s South Horizons development).