在南海渡船上的2个月 / Two Months on a Ferry Boat in the South China Sea

在南海渡船上的2个月

上周六,我从港岛乘渡船前往长洲看望老友,中午还和他一起吃了顿海鲜。

以前我在博客里曾经交待,多年前初到香港时我曾在长洲落脚,但如今已有很多年没再去过。

从位于港岛中环国际金融中心附近的码头刚登上渡船,许多回忆便扑面而来。渡船上的气氛、景象、声响,还有熙熙攘攘的港口上空弥漫着的咸味都令我感到如此亲切,因为我过去可是这条航线上十多年的老乘客呢。

我曾经粗略地算过,在长洲居住的那几年,我花在这条航线上的时间加起来大概得有两个多月。能在渡船上花这么长时间,那还真不算短。

那时候,这条航线单程就需要一小时。而现在,因为船速加快,只需30分钟足矣。

在香港这个交通便捷的弹丸之地,一个小时的路程就算很长了,特别是在那个年代。然而,由于可以利用这段时间读书、放松、思考、写作、和朋友聊天,还可以来上一杯香茶或咖啡,这一小时倒也过得不失雅致。再加上头顶掠过的海鸥和鸢鸟、身旁驶过的大小形状各异的船只,都为迎接一天的工作营造了良好心境。这样的旅程实在是轻松惬意,尤其和被堵车堵在路上相比要好得多。

那时,来自中国内地的渔船比比皆是,因为还是老式木帆船(通常挂着红帆),所以一眼就能认得出来。直到现在,很多来自香港附近内地港口的小船还没有进入柴油机时代。

在上世纪七十年代末,经常可以看到许多挤满越南难民的小木船在海上飘摇,要么朝着香港方向慢慢挪动,要么已遭香港水警拖曳。

那时候商船种类繁多,从近海的小型汽船、往来珠三角的油气轮,到大型集装箱船应有尽有。但这些船无论体积还是速度都与现在的巨型集装箱船不可同日而语。

当时常见的还有港澳间的渡船和夜间行驶的慢船。由波音公司制造、率先在夏威夷投入使用的高速喷射飞翼船在那时还是个稀罕物。

偶尔,我们也能在珠江口水域看到成群的小海豚,身上还粉嘟嘟的,如今它们已是濒危保护动物了。

搭渡船不仅能放松心情,还是一个绝佳的窗口,透过它可以看到中国南方在改革开放前夕发生的历史变迁,以及那些为迎接即将到来的巨变所作的准备。

迄今为止,长洲岛作为渔港的历史已经超过一个世纪。早在二十世纪初,长洲的捕捞船队就已接近1,000支,但到七十年代中却仅余下个零头。当时还在作业的船只大部分都是大型拖网船,其设计和装备都是按前往南海多鱼区进行一个月以上的长途捕捞作业而配置的。香港近海的渔业资源已被捕捞殆尽。

Two Months on a Ferry Boat in the South China Sea

On a recent Saturday morning I took a ferry from Hong Kong to Cheung Chau Island to visit old friends and have a seafood lunch together.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I lived in Cheung Chau many years ago after I first came to Hong Kong. It had been a few years since I’d been back for a visit.

As I boarded the ferry boat in Hong Kong’s Central District near the IFC center, I was hit by a flood of memories. The atmosphere aboard the ferry and the sights, sounds, and salty smell of the bustling harbor were all deeply familiar, because I had been a regular commuter on this line for more than ten years.

I once did a rough calculation of the total amount of time I had spent on that route over the years I lived on the island, and it came to something like 2 months. That’s a long time to spend on a ferry boat.

The one-way trip in those days took one hour. Now they have faster ferries as well, which take only 30 minutes.

In super convenient, compact Hong Kong, a one-hour commute was considered quite long, especially in those days. There is something civilized, however, about having an hour to read, relax, think, write, talk with friends, and drink a cup of coffee or tea. Meanwhile, terns and brahminy kites fly overhead, and all sizes and shapes of shipping vessels pass by, putting you in a good frame. of mind for the day of work which awaits you. It is a very relaxing form. of commute, especially compared to sitting in a traffic jam.

Fishing junks from China were common sights and immediately noticeable because they were still older-style. teak vessels under (often red-colored) sail. Many of the smaller junks from mainland ports near Hong Kong has not yet entered the diesel engine age.

In the late 1970s, it was not unusual to see rickety little wooden boats packed with Vietnamese refugees, either making their way slowly towards Hong Kong harbor, or already under tow by the Hong Kong Marine Police.

There was a huge variety of commercial shipping vessels, ranging from small coastal steamers and tankers plying the Pearl River Delta area to large container ships, although they pale by comparison to the size and speed of today’s giant container vessels.

The HK-Macau ferries were a common sight, including the slow overnight ferry. High-speed jetfoils, produced by Boeing and initially deployed in the Hawaiian islands, were a brand new phenomenon in those days.

Occasionally we would see pods of the small pink dolphins which inhabit the Pearl River estuary area, now an endangered and protected species.

So the ferry ride was not only relaxing, but a kind of window into the historic changes which were taking place in South China in the pre-Open Door and Reform. era, setting the stage for even bigger changes to come.

Cheung Chau has been a fishing port for more than a century. Early in the 20th century its fishing fleet numbered nearly 1,000 boats. By the mid-1970s the fleet was only a fraction of that size, and most of the remaining working fishing boats were large trawlers designed and equipped for long distance fishing trips of one month’s duration or more, to more productive fishing grounds in Southeast Asia. Hong Kong’s inshore waters had been largely fished out.

 

长洲港 / Cheung Chau Harbor

那时候,当你在香港中环登上渡船,就此挥别夹在摩登大楼间宛若峡谷的窄巷,以及拥挤在“谷底”的身穿条纹西服、野心勃勃的经理人。来到长洲,迎接你的是空气中飘荡的虾酱、臭豆腐和咸鱼味道,还有头戴斗笠的小贩在岸边叫卖海鲜、蔬菜和小吃的噪杂声。岛上没有汽车,铺好的小路就算是主干道,摩天大厦也不过三层楼高。

环境如此天差地别的两地——相隔却只有一个小时的航程——这实在另人振奋,尤其一边是如此浮躁,而另一边却如此平和。

虽然长洲的经济仍以渔业为主,但当地旅游业已逐渐起步。古庙、干净的海滩、一年一度的长洲太平清醮会(又称包山节,由香港长洲海陆丰籍居民于每年农历四月举行,特色活动是抢包山和飘色巡游——译注),还有一个与清朝著名海盗张保仔有关的山洞,更不用提新鲜无比、价格公道的海鲜美食,都对岛外的香港民众颇具吸引力。

除去捕捞业、旅游业和地方农业,据说走私在当年也是个朝阳产业,特别是在改革开放前——内地仍对进口电器、电子产品征收大量关税的年代。

在改革开放前,香港渔民要比其他任何港人都更接近内地。他们很多人都持有内地及香港两地的捕捞证,能在内地常来常往。

反观香港商界——除食品及消费品进口商、大小贸易行外——与内地的互动极少。对华贸易中至关重要的律师、会计、银行和服务业的发展在那时还只是遥远的设想。

当年去内地回来的人,会在香港引发一片的“啊” “噢”声,还有无数充满好奇的问题,就快赶上重返地球的宇航员了。

相对来说,长洲岛的地势平坦,形状好似哑铃,冬季有东南季风扫过,其他季节吹的都是西南风。

每当回忆起老地方,声音总是其中一个重要的组成部分。最能让我联想起长洲的声音就是海风吹过木麻黄时发出的沙沙声。木麻黄是亚热带常见的树种,树叶呈长针状,有点像松针。还有就是低回的蛙鸣——有牛蛙也有树蛙——从每年春季开始,一直可以持续到凉爽的冬季到来之前。

长洲现在虽然已经有了快速渡船、政府公屋,新建加宽的道路上各种小型警务、消防、施工用车来来往往,一家室内农贸市场取代了露天集市,麦当劳、超市、便利店以及其他各种现代生活方式标记一个不落,但这次回去我发现,其实那里的变化真的不大。

变化是相对的。过去三十年,工作和生活的节奏急剧加速,无论从健康还是幸福角度出发,人们都渴望并需要不时地去慢节奏、生活宁静的“岛国”躲避一阵。如果能够天天如此,那当然就更美了。

所以,我一点儿也不后悔在渡船上花掉的两个月时间。相反,那是我生平最妙不可言的一段旅程。

As you boarded the ferry in Hong Kong’s Central district, you bid farewell to the gleaming, crowded downtown canyons filled with pin-stripe-suited, high-flying business executives. As you arrived in Cheung Chau, you were greeted by the wafting aromas of shrimp paste, stinky beancurd and salted fish; with gaggles of rattan-hatted vendors along the waterfront hawking fresh seafood, local veggies and cooked snacks; on a vehicle-free island where the main roads were paved paths and the skyscrapers were three stories tall.

The contrast between these two enormously different environments — separated by only one hour’s boat ride — was a tonic, especially because one was so frenetic and the other so laid back.

Although fishing was still the mainstay of the Cheung Chau economy, local tourism was just beginning to emerge. Historic temples, clean beaches, and the annual Bun Festival were a draw for people from other parts of Hong Kong, as was a cave associated with the notorious Qing Dynasty pirate Zhang Baozai, not to mention great fresh seafood at very reasonable prices.

Apart from fishing and tourism, and some local agriculture, smuggling was said to be a growth industry as well, especially in the pre-Open Door era when China still imposed high import duties on a wide range of products including consumer electronics and appliances.

In the pre-Open Door and Reform. era, Hong Kong’s fishing community was in many respects more connected and integrated with China than any other sub-group in Hong Kong society. Many if not most had to obtain dual fishing licenses for mainland as well as Hong Kong waters, which brought them into a regular orbit with the mainland.

By contrast, the general business community in Hong Kong — with the exception of foodstuff and commodity importers and the small and big-scale trading houses — had little interaction with China. An active role in China trade for the lawyers, accountants, bankers, and service sector was a hypothetical future development at that stage.

In those days, returning from a trip to China, one could expect oohs, ahhs, and very curious questions from people in Hong Kong, almost equivalent to an astronaut returning to planet Earth.

Cheung Chau’s relatively flat, dumbbell shape leaves it exposed to the prevailing Northeast monsoons in the winter months and southwesterly winds the rest of the year.

Sounds form. an important part of our memories of places from our past. One of the iconic sounds I associate with Cheung Chau is the whispering of the wind through the casuarina trees, a long-needled pine-like tree which thrives in sub-tropical coastal environments. Another is the deep bass-noted humming of the frogs — bull frogs and tree frogs — which began each Spring and continued until the cooler winter weather set in.

Even though Cheung Chau now has fast ferries; government housing estates; more and wider paved roads with small police, fire and construction vehicles; an indoor versus open-air wet market; McDonalds, supermarkets and convenience stores; and other trappings of modern lifestyle, I found on my recent homecoming that in essence it really hasn’t changed that much.

Change is relative, and the pace of work and life has accelerated so dramatically these past 30 years that it is not only desirable but necessary for health and well-being to retreat from time to time to slower-paced “islands” with a quieter lifestyle. If you can manage to do that on a daily basis, all the better.

I have no regrets about the two-month long ferry ride. On the contrary, it was the best commute I ever had.


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