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Hong Kong’s Sampan Ladies

In HongKong’s waterways, sampans, which literally mean “three planks” in Cantonese, still flourish as both a mode of transport and, for the economically-challenged, a modest abode. During a recent trip to Asia’s frenetic shopping capital, I was amazed to know that old women navigate the waters in these sampans to eke out a living. With the strength and agility of men half their age,they deftly maneuver the wooden boats in an area dotted with fishing boats and yachts, to the delight of tourists who go along for a ride at a hefty HK$50. Once the water is calm, these ladies unveil the goods and souvenirs covered by colorful blankets and get ready to earn additional bucks from their passengers.

Sextuagenarian Mrs. Pik, shown in picture number 2, has been navigating her sampan for years to help augment the family income. The reason most sampan navigators are women, I was told, is that men are out fishing at sea.

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