Aberdeen is an area on the southern side of the Hong Kong Island.  According to Wikipedia, present day Aberdeen Village was originally known as “Hong Kong” since the Ming Dynasty.  Travelers who came to the “Hong Kong” port mistook the name Hong Kong as the name for the whole island.  When the foreigners realized their mistake, the name Hong Kong had “stuck” as the name of the the whole island.  So, in 1845, it was renamed “Aberdeen”, after the British Secretary of State of War and Colonies, George Hamilton-Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen.

What was the entry point for foreigners had given a way to hundreds of families that had lived on these “floating” villages for generations where people used to fish for a living.  Now, it is clearly a figment of an era gone by.  Stanley Ho, the Asian casino counter-part of Steve Wynn, has famously created “Jumbo”, a floating restaurant known for its seafood.  The real reason for the restaurant, as some suggest, is so Stanley Ho can legalize gambling in Hong Kong without having a casino on the the actual land.  Whatever the reason, the floating villages of generations past has slowly been dying out.  When we went to visit Aberdeen last year, we met this wonderfully cordial woman who grew up living on these junks and still does, if we were to believe her, today.  As she drove her little junk around the harbor, she told us stories of years gone by.  High rises, land reclamation, and changing commercialism has changed Aberdeen from a once thriving area to a tourist stop.  She said the only way to make a living now is to drive these junks around for tourists who want to see how they used to live or those who only want to eat at the Jumbo restaurant.  Junks are less and less visible now, giving its way to the highly extravagant yachts that are parked at the harbor.  She is one of the last in her generation to still live there, because as she so aptly puts it, “I don’t know how else to live except on these boats and in Aberdeen”.

As she waves goodbye to us, she knows that change is inevitable.  Especially in a place like Hong Kong, where a fad seem to come and go in as quick as a day.  But for some, it’s the only life they have ever known.  I wonder if this women feels as though she has already changed enough for one life time.  Growing up in a fishing village to now driving around people like us in a junk like a tour guide.  And yet, she didn’t sound angry or bitter.  She only reminisced a world she had once known that no longer exists except in her mind.  And yet, you can tell that memory was as sweet as honey for her.  She had a smile telling us stories of “what it used to be” like it was yesterday.  And yet, it’s all too clear that Aberdeen, the original Hong Kong, is just another tourist spot.  Another place in Old Hong Kong that is fading fast into the memory of the generation past.  What else will disappear I wonder.  It will be all too clear next time we visit again, I am sure.

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