Thursday, June 12, 2008

Top of the world at Top Deck

Jumbo, the floating restaurant in Aberdeen Harbor, is an icon of sorts here. Claiming to the be the largest floating restaurant in the world, Jumbo sits grandly a couple hundred yards out in the harbor, covered in red and gold and dragons and lights. Everyone has been there, including Queen Elizabeth II and John Wayne and it lured us there as well. Though full of ancient Chinese imperial charm, neither the food nor the service of the main restaurant has worked for us. Last night, invited by friends leaving Hong Kong after two years, we went upstairs to the Western restaurant Top Deck and found the Hong Kong experience we had been striving for on previous trips. Apparently, our iconic Hong Kong experience needs child friendly menus and comfortable seating. Good friends and great views helped too.

Jumbo was opened in October 1976 but somehow seems older than that. Prior to opening, Jumbo was destroyed by a fire in 1971, in which 34 workers lost their lives and was chronicled in Noble House, set in Hong Kong. Decorated in ancient Chinese palace style, the whole Jumbo experience seems antiquated despite recent renovations in 2004 and 2007. At one point last year, we planned to take visitors to dinner there and looked out in the harbor to see the whole multi-storey building/boat was gone. We later learned that the whole thing was unmoored and taken up the Pearl River to have repairs and decorations done. Jumbo left and returned with little fanfare, at least in the Western press. And now the tradition, mainly adhered to by tourists, continues.

But the experience at the upper restaurant had none of the old school stuffiness. The kids sprawled on sofas and played cards, while the adults admired the views. Hong Kong has had a lot of rain for the past month. Not surprising, as this is the traditional rainy season. Last week, we had a number of days coded as “black rain,” meaning school events were cancelled and road traffic was kept to a minimum. The rain cleared for our friends’ going- away dinner and our combined relief made everything seem sparkling and new.

After taking the kids to less than stellar dinners at Jumbo, our kids heard about the other restaurant, Top Deck. We even went up to see it while eating at Jumbo. Somehow the name of this restaurant entered the kids vocabulary and as a three year old Roycie made a Jumbo joke that has stood the test of time, still making us smile today. Royce and Tori currently share a bedroom and have a bunk bed. Royce’s lower bunk is larger, perhaps a double bed size while Tori’s upper bunk is a single. While it seems a little obvious now, it was clever at the time when Royce told everyone her bed was Jumbo and Tori’s was Top Deck. There is something about that whole floating complex, with harbor views on one side and city views on the other, that just speaks to everyone’s imagination.