In Hong Kong, summer is synonymous with boat season. Hordes of locals and tourists take to the sea in hopes of escaping the oppressive heat of Hong Kong Island and the beachfront crowds. And guess what? It’s effective. As soon as you sail (or motor) out of Victoria Harbour, the breeze picks up and the temperature seems to drop by a gorgeous 10 degrees. Life is good at sea.
If you don’t have your own private yacht, don’t worry. Hong Kong is full of easily rentable seafaring vessels, called junk boats, across a wide spectrum of luxury. Most are rentable in six-hour blocks, either during the day or at night, and will sail you to a beach of your choosing, though the most beautiful beaches, such as Tai Long Wan, are generally the farthest and require a good three hours sail time each way, plus a fuel surcharge. Many, though not all, of the boats offer full catering and open bar options, too. Here are our picks for junk boat options to set sail:
Many junk charters are organized and catered by Hong Kong restaurants. One of these is Koh Thai, a justifiably popular Thai chain. The restaurant offers four kinds of junk boats, accommodating up to 45 people and a choice of six pick-up and drop-off locations, at an all-inclusive fare that includes an open bar and a choose-your-own buffet menu from the restaurant. And although there are no fancy amenities onboard, the junks are comfortable and the staff is friendly.
Whatever your budget, whatever your needs, Saffron is likely to have the right boat for you. Options range from sleek Italian cruisers, trim catamarans or Beneteau sailing yachts to luxury motor yachts, a veritable pirate ship or a traditional, 70-foot teak Chinese sailing junk, adorned with red fan-sails and all.
Saffron offers an unusually wide range of catering options as well, from regionally themed picnic baskets (Asian and Mediterranean fare) to three-course gourmet dinners with plates such as braised leg of lamb or Thai seafood red curry. The company is also delighted to whisk you away to one of Hong Kong’s seafood restaurants on outlying islands such as Lamma and Po Toi Island.
Depending on how much you’re willing to shell out, prices run the gamut, too. A 58-foot luxury motor yacht accommodating 10 people will cost you 60,000 HKD (about $7,700 USD). A traditional teak junk boat is a tenth of that price, and accommodates up to 30 individuals. Perhaps the best deals are the catamarans, accommodating up to 30 guests for 7,500 HKD (about $1,000 USD). None of those prices include catering or fuel surcharges.
This luxury wooden junk offers the standard four-hour cruises, for 26,000 HKD (about $3,353 USD), but the real draw is its overnight charter. Set sail for the night and experience gourmet meals alfresco on deck (with dishes such as sage and ricotta stuffed chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto), full staff and your own luxury cabin for two (with luxe Ralph Lauren linens no less).
The team behind Tsim Sha Tsui’s glamorous restaurant and bar, Aqua, also organizes a junk boat, Aqua Luna. More of a floating bar than a private boat, you can hop on this traditional red-sail junk (reportedly one of the last traditional Chinese junk boats built in Hong Kong) and enjoy a cocktail or two in comfort. The more popular Victoria Harbour cruise departs from a few different spots including the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. If you leave from this location, you’re looking at a quick 45-minute jaunt.
For an extended trip, opt for the Stanley cruise that takes you to Stanley Village located on the south side of Hong Kong Island. You’ll have two hours to explore the village where a popular activity involves perusing the waterfront market.
Photos Courtesy of Paco Saffron Cruises