National Geographic : 1950 Mar
388 J. (liarles TIhomp son Restaurant-barge Patrons Select Their Dinners Not from Menus but from Fish Baskets Diners stand on one of the floating cafes (right) to which the Aberdeen sampan women rowed the photog rapher. They select their favorite sea food as the attendant (center) dips into the basket tanks and displays such items as spiny lobster, shrimp, and cuttlefish. While the fish are being prepared in the kitchen boat (directly ahead), customers nibble on ginger, water melon seeds, and cabbage pickles. On one floating restaurant Mr. Thompson had to order by pictures. He drew a sketch of a shark and pointed to the fin, indicating he wanted soup, for that is all that shark fins are used for! A popular item on Hong Kong's English menus is garoupa, a Chinese corruption of the word "grouper." So esteemedl is this fish that restaurants use its name as an alias of any less desirable kind in stock. Privileged Hong Kong, which lives in the Empire style of days long gone, finds it hard to believe stories of England's austerity. The Crown Colony, prosperous and growing, seldom dreams of stinting itself. It can think of scarcely a luxury that cannot be ordered. Meat regularly comes in from Australia. Burma and Thailand send rice. The Philippines ship fruit, and China contributes vegetables. A fashionable meal may cost $5 American, but patrons are so eager to pay that they stand in long queues. By night the city blazes with the neons of pleasure palaces, for it has taken Red Shanghai's place as the capital of gaiety. Hotels have long waiting lines. House and apartment prices soar in spite of rent controls, which do not apply to new construction. Rich Chinese, investing in Hong Kong real estate, have started a building boom. Air-conditioned, 11-story "skyscrapers" now crowd verandaed offices of Victorian design. Movies, comic strips, baseball, and soccer reflect growing fondness for Western forms of amusement. The Chinese ceded the Island of Hong Kong to the British by treaty in 1842. This was five years before the United States acquired California from Mexico. The British converted the barren island and raw hills of Kowloon Peninsula into one of the world's chief ports, open to every maritime nation.