The joys of a harbour crossing
I HAVE just been in Hong Kong, which is always a joy to visit. There is something so cocksure about harbour cities, and particularly great trading ports. I love the purposeful rush and scurry of vessels of myriad sizes and the possibilities to get out there on the water among it all, on ferries and sailboats or, in the case of Hong Kong, on a traditional junk that could have materialised out of a James Clavell novel with an opium-running taipan at the wheel.
While the motorised tourist boat Aqua Luna is a 28m pretend junk, with crimson sails that are just for show, it bobs about with a pleasing rhythm on the washes of bigger craft and to be aboard is a lovely way to enjoy a Hong Kong sunset or, if you time your slot just right, the nightly Symphony of Lights show that kicks off for about 15 minutes from 8pm in a display of lasers and searchlights that zigzag like lightning strikes across at least 45 skyscrapers amid rousing simulcast music.
Aqua Luna has upstairs and downstairs seating, but the bed-like lounges up top are the shot, with padded bolsters and cushions. My voyage, from the Hong Kong Island side to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon Peninsula’s tip, takes place as the sun goes down in a blaze of orange, and it seems impossibly romantic to be under those great batwing sails. Surely the waiters should be wearing pirate eye-patches and talking to their shoulder parrots.
Jan Morris, that unparallelled chronicler of cities, has written of Hong Kong’s ‘‘impression of irresistible activity’’, and you feel this most on the harbour, especially when riding to and fro on those doubledecker green-and-white Star Ferries, in service since 1888 and still zooming strong, displaying those famously discouraging signs: ‘‘Do not travel with any animal or poultry. Do not put any part of your body out through the bulwark. Passengers should not lie down.’’
Hong Kong has such an appetite for waterfront reclamation that you wonder if the two sides of the harbour will meet one day. I hope not and so does Hong Kong tourism ambassador Jackie Chan, who says he made his first harbour crossing when he was seven, ‘‘dressed in a cowboy costume [with] 10-gallon hat and plastic six-shooters’’. That’s my kind of pirate.
Surely the waiters should be wearing pirate eye-patches and talking to their shoulder parrots