To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.about me
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According to Wikipedia a "sampan" is an Asian skiff usually propelled by two oars, a definition borrowed from the Merriam Webster Dictionary) Personally I think this is a somewhat "narrow" and misleading definition which interestingly, is inconsistent with the article on sampans in Encyclopedia Britannica (a sister company of Merrian Webster) which shows supporting pictures of what I would consider to be Junks
The term "sampan", at least here in Hong Kong, is applied to small working vessels that chug around local harbours carrying passengers (and goods) which in wikipedia are referred to as kai-to's (Chinese: 街渡). Since the term "sampan" comes from the original Cantonese term for boats, 三板 (sam pan), I naturally sought linguist clarification from a local native Cantonese speaker - my wife. Apparently Kai-to (pronounced something like "Guy Doh" ) refers to the purpose of the vessel not to its construction whereas sampan is a term used generically used for wooden boats which follow the traditional chinese ("3 plank") design irrespective of whether they are propelled by oars or inboard diesel motors and therein lies my issue with the merriam-webster and wikipedia definitions.
Eight years ago the wikipedia article on Ap Lei Chau had a reference to the Kai-To's which linked to a picture of a Star Ferry which is an entirely different beastie. Fortunately the article has since been tidied up. It is worth noting that there are some brave souls who, if they have missed the last ferry to Lamma, will solicit a sampan late at night and risk crossing the sea lanes. I am not sure I would have the bottle for that, but catching the Kai-To to Ap lei Chau in the evening is much more fun than catching a bus , although the service stops at about 11:20pm.
Recently Southern District Council has set up formal pickup points arrount the harbour to facilitate Sampan Tours for Tourists. It used to be, that as you walked down the praya a wizened old crone would accost you (if you looked like a tourist) and offer for 20 HK$ a head, a five minute boat ride round the harbour
No doubt the Tour rates have gone up unlike the Kai-To fare between Aaberdeen and Ap Lei Chau which remains at 1.80HK$. Sadly only things have changed. When I first started using the ferry I realized that we passed a sampan on which there was an old lady living. You sometimes saw her in the morning moving about inside when the tarpaulin was partly open at the stern. Moreover as far as I could see it was the ONLY sampan on which anyone lived. The boat recognisable by its TV aerial is still in the harbour today but looking at it it seems that the woman has either died or moved on shore..