Yes, there still are traditional-looking fishing boats
to be found in highrise building-flanked Aberdeen Harbour
A view of the kaito from one of the two
places in Aberdeen where it picks up passengers
On the day that I tried out the MTR's new South Island Line, I also went on an older form of transportation found in the area. A ride on the kaito that goes between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau is undeniably slower than one on an MTR train. But I reckon that it's far more atmospheric -- and quite the bargain, seeing as it costs HK$2.20 (~28 US cents), a full 10 HK cents cheaper than the iconic tram!
To be sure, the journey time for this particular kaito service is only four minutes or so -- shorter even than the already truncated-feeling Star Ferry rides between Tsim Sha Tsui and either Central or Wan Chai. But in that brief period that you're on the boat, you'll be privy to many scenic views and get a much better glimpse of (life in) Aberdeen Harbour/Typhoon Shelter than if you were to remain on terra firma on either the Aberdeen or Ap Lei Chau side of this body of water.
On the kaito ride, you'll get a good idea of how crowded the harbour still is, including with fishing boats that may look on the modest size when you view them from the land but you'll realize are actually big enough to have space for people -- sometimes whole families -- to sleep as well as work, and generally live a significant chunk of their lives, on when you're close to them. And you'll also get a better sense of the number of large birds (including kites and egrets) to be found in the vicinity: some of whom you're likely to see diving into the water to get some fish as well as flying in the air, sometimes high up in the sky, at other times just meters above the tops of the kaito and other vessels in the harbor.
Something that's also pretty observable is that -- unlike with the sampans offering water tours, for which sometimes have long queues -- the clientele for the not particularly crowded kaito are by and large area residents. Actually, since one of the exits of the South Island Line's Lei Tung station is located just a few minutes' walk away from the Ap Lei Chau landing for the kaito, I wonder whether this ferry service will see an increase in passengers in the next few months and years on account of the MTR being such a quick way to get to Admiralty from the Southern District but there being no MTR station for Aberdeen (old) town.
If so, the Aberdeen-Ap Lei Chau kaito service will be the rare mode of transportation that will benefit from -- rather than see its clientele diminished by -- the coming of the MTR into its part of Hong Kong. And, I for one, am happy about that since it means an increased likelihood of the continued existence of an older, charming element of Hong Kong in the years to come! :)