HONG KONG'S JUMBO FLOATING RESTAURANT

HONG KONG’S JUMBO FLOATING RESTAURANT BEING TOWED OUT OF ABERDEEN HARBOR IN JUNE. PHOTO: PETER PARKS / AFP

Once a landmark of Hong Kong, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant sank over the weekend off the coast of Vietnam. 

It marked a tragic end to the massive three-story eatery that was designed like a Chinese imperial palace and could seat up to 2,300 diners. Unable to stay in business after more than four decades in operation, it was towed from the city’s harbor to an undisclosed shipyard in Southeast Asia last week. 

In a statement issued on Monday night, owner Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said the vessel encountered “adverse conditions” when passing Xisha Islands—also known as the Paracel Islands—in the South China Sea on Saturday. 

Despite efforts to rescue the vessel, water entered the ship, which began to tip and ultimately capsized on Sunday, the company said. “The water depth at the scene is over 1,000 meters, making it extremely difficult to carry out salvage works,” it wrote. Prior to its departure, professional marine engineers have thoroughly inspected its hull and installed hoardings, it added.

Founded by the late Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho in 1976, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant counted Queen Elizabeth II and Tom Cruise among its guests and was featured in multiple films, including the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun.

News of its ill-fated journey riled the city, where many visited the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter last week to bid the floating attraction farewell. 

“Jumbo is part of collective memories of the good old days, where there was no pandemic and the economy was good. Not all could enjoy equally from the economic success of the Pearl of the Orient, but we still had hope and the city still respected fairness and equity,” Lai, a Hong Kong resident, told VICE World News. He requested the use of his last name only as he works for a public body and fears government reprisal. “Its departure and sinking, which all Hongkongers and I could do nothing to stop, were a symbol of the miserable fall of the city.”

Unable to find a new operator for the restaurant or a berth to moor the ship, the parent company announced in May its decision to move the vessel out of the territory before its operating license expires in June. The restaurant has been closed since the pandemic began in early 2020. And the company has accumulated more than HK$100 million ($12.74 million) in losses since 2013. 

Hong Kong’s outgoing leader Carrie Lam has pledged to revitalize the fleet in 2020. Later that year, a senior official raved about the restaurant’s “rebirth,” after its owner agreed to donate it to a local theme park. But plans eventually fell through as the park said it could not find a suitable operator and the company struggled to stay afloat, first metaphorically and then literally.

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