Monday, July 28, 2014

Kill a Dragon - Jack Palance (1967) - Aberdeen Harbour and the Wan Fu

More nostalgia for those of a certain age who may remember the boat owned and operated by the HongKong Hilton Hotel. It was called the Wan Fu - apparently a reproduction of an 1840's British Brigantine - and used to take hotel guests on fully-catered harbour and island tours.

It seems as though the film makers of Kill a Dragon couldn't be bothered with organising their own boat tour and instead decided to hijack an existing one. I guess it is fair enough though because the character played by Aldo Ray in the film is actually a tour guide for the hotel.

Yes, the Wan Fu was a real boat and it was operated by the HongKong Hilton - no need to create fake boat names and signposts for these shots.

A few familiar shots of Aberdeen Harbour above (that's Also Ray with the red blazer). In the following shots we catch a small glimpse of both the Sea Palace and Tai Pak floating restaurants.

Here are a couple of further pictures that show the Wan Fu circa 1990 - just a few years before the Hilton was demolished.

I have no idea what happened to it afterwards, perhaps it stayed on with a private owner or was sold overseas. If anyone can fill us in on what happened to it then please feel free to leave a comment below. I hope it didn't go the same way as the Osprey :-(


  1. Did a little digging and I can't find any definitive reference to Wan Fu post-1993. (That's still two years before the Hilton was demolished.)

    I *think* her Chinese name was 萬福號 (Wan Fu Hao / Maan Fuk Hou), typically translated in period documents as "Ten Thousand Felicitations", but less literally, "Many Blessings". (I think the third character just designates that it's a name / title.)

    The most recent thing I could find in a quick search was this:

    The book is titled "Hong Kong 1994: The Number One Port", but was actually published in 1993. Wan Fu gets a mention on page 85 (which is page 88 of the PDF):

    "The Hong Kong Hilton Hotel operates a replica of a 19th Century brigantine, WAN FU, whose name translates as ten thousand felicities -- which must be lucky. Built and classed to Lloyds Register 100A1, she can carry up to 80 passengers in considerable comfort. Onboard catering is provided and lunch cruises and barbecue dinners are available to hotel guests and the general public. Whilst all the rigging remains, the sails are sadly gone and the auxiliary engine provides propulsion for this 30m (100ft) long, 6m (20ft) beam reminder of the pirate chasing brigantines of the mid-19th Century."

    A few travel books (eg. Frommer's Comprehensive Travel Guide, Fielding's Far East, Asia Pacific Business Travel Guide) mention her in their 94, 95 or 96 editions, but quite likely that's just lazy editing and she was already gone.

    I'd have to imagine even without her sails and in somewhat geriatric condition -- she was 34 years old in 1993 -- she'd still have been fairly valuable. Most likely she was sold on to some other entity in preparation for the Hilton closing.

    It bugs me that I've seen something more recent of Wan Fu on the web last year, but I can't remember where or what it said. I was trying to find out what happened to the Ji Fung, Outward Bound's beautiful sail training ship that used to be based in Tai Mong Tsai.

    (Sadly, it turned out Ji Fung was sold to cigarette company John Player in 2002, run aground in Mallorca in 2003, then refloated and finally sank for good the following year. Not a much happier story than the loss of the Osprey.)

    I'd love to know where Wan Fu ended up, if anybody else can sniff out her trail... Hopefully she's still afloat somewhere, not scrapped or sunk.

    1. once again, gweilo8888, you have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide some really interesting details, many thanks. You know, it's quite possible that this thing is sitting happily in Aberdeen Harbour being lovingly looked after by a new owner. I shall endeavour to have a look next time I am down there because I have noticed there are some nice looking antique pieces still floating around there.

      It's possible you saw the Wan Fu mentioned in the FB 1960's group, I posted some screencaps in there a few months ago and got some useful responses from people who remembered it? Including one chap who told me his mother was roped in as an extra on the film!

      There is still a masted ship floating around HK but I don't think it is owned by Outward Bound, I think it is owned and run by Saffron Cruises for some extortionate price per day. I last saw it shored up in Discovery Bay but have seen it floating around all over Sai Kung in the past.

  2. Thanks, I shall cross my fingers that she's still afloat. Here are a few more pictures:

    She's discussed briefly here, but if there's an answer as to what became of her somewhere in the thread, I can't see it:

  3. I remembered that the boat was sold to Guangzhou White Swan Hotel to avoid the fate of being reduced to a pile of firewood, but I am not totally sure as it was quite a while ago. So I checked out the UWants link in guello8888's entry above and someone indeed mentioned that it went to White Swan Hotel. Here what I found in the hotel webpage. See the wallpaper pic - there's a sailboat.

    1. Hi AY

      many thanks for the information. It would be great if it was still in use. Perhaps a trip to the hotel when it re-opens would be in order :-)