We may still be shocked by the demise of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant and wonder how this iconic monument came to its end. However, you may not know that Jumbo was one of three floating restaurants that formed the Jumbo Kingdom (珍寶王國). It comprised the Jumbo Floating Restaurant (珍寶海鮮舫), the adjacent Tai Pak Floating Restaurant (太白海鮮舫), and the Sea Palace (海角皇宮).
The oldest of the pack, Tai Pak was established in 1952. Often overshadowed by its larger and newer neighbour, Jumbo, Tai Pak has its own great stories. In fact, Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon was actually filmed at Tai Pak, not at Jumbo. Not just the oldest, it is the only remaining floating restaurant left of the Jumbo Kingdom. With its smaller size meaning lower costs for repairs, there is still hope that we may see it in service again in the hands of new owners. It still remains in Aberdeen.
The Sea Palace was actually the second boat of the same name, with its predecessor sold off, to Stanley Ho, and converted to a floating casino named the Macau Palace. The Macau Palace is a Macau icon in its own right but closed in 2007 and was hauled away to make room for the development of the Fisherman's Wharf. Those who want to see it could still do so through the 1974 James Bond classic, The Man With the Golden Gun.
The Sea Palace itself did not fare as well as its predecessor. Leaving Hong Kong in 1999 for Manila Bay, Philippines, it suffered typhoon damage in 2001 and couldn't begin operation until 2003. Eventually closed for financial reasons, it was gifted to the Qingdao city government but left languishing.
Finally, we have the biggest and most famous Jumbo. The first Jumbo actually burnt down before its inauguration which led to the current Jumbo's establishment by new owners, Stanley Ho and Cheng Yu-tung, in 1976. Stanley Ho eventually purchased both the Tai Pak and Sea Palace in the early 1980s and completed his ‘kingdom’.
However, the good times never last forever. Since the 2010s, the business has been increasingly more difficult to run and with the onset of the COVID pandemic, it ceased business in March 2020. High maintenance and berthing costs, paired with an uncertain future, meant that the Jumbo was in jeopardy. Proposals to gift it to a new operator and even Ocean Park were explored but came to no avail due to operational cost issues.
Finally, it was decided that Jumbo would leave Hong Kong to lower recurring costs with the hope of an eventual return. This started the ominous last chapter of Jumbo as we saw fire break out on the connected kitchen boat that saw it capsize and left behind during Jumbo’s departure.
Towed away from its home in Hong Kong on 14 June 2020, with an unknown destination, it met with bad weather in the South China Sea on 20 June and capsized to its cold lonely grave. This time, there will likely be no reborn phoenix arising from the fires.
Farewell Jumbo, and let's hope Tai Pak can carry on the dreams of all floating restaurants.