30 May 2009

Loving Hong Kong #1 - Transportation

I've been here 14 years and it is as 'home' to me as it gets. We used to come here almost every summer with my parents and even then, as a young(er!) girl, beyond Ocean Park and the shopping malls, I've always loved the bustle, the brisk pace, the colorful cauldron of characters that make up Hong Kong. I love its East-meets-West flavor.

One of the many things I love about Hong Kong is its transportation system. I daresay it's probably one of the best in Asia and possibly ranks up there with the best in the world. I love that I can easily hop on any number of modes of transport and get to where I need to be. The connectivity, the convenience, the efficiency. Love it.

Sometimes if I know that parking would be a problem at the place that I need to go to, I'd just take public transportation. If I bring Josh along and if we are not pressed for time, we would sometimes make a game out of it and see how many different modes of transport we could squeeze in getting to where we would need to go. The other day, we were able to get on (1) a double-decker bus, (2) a taxi, (3) a mini-bus, and (4) the train. That only leaves the tram and the ferry that we hadn't taken that day. Isn't it cool? How many places in the world can you very easily take so many different modes of transport in an afternoon?

Here is a quick glimpse of the smorgasbord that we get to choose from:

1) The public buses
Most of these are double-decker buses, with only a few that are not. Josh always asks to go to the top deck whenever we ride in the double-deckers.

There is one that takes you to the Peak Tram terminus in Admiralty that is an open-top one, the 15C. We used to see this bus parked at a bus terminus near where we live and Josh would always cry out, "Look, Mommy. The bus with no roof!"

2) The mini-buses
These are officially called "public light buses," but everyone here just calls them mini-buses. They usually serve areas that main bus lines cannot reach as efficiently. The mini-buses get you to where you need to go - fast! Some of the mini-bus drivers drive like maniacs. I don't know if it's voluntary on the part of the mini-bus companies, but some of the mini-buses have installed a visible digital display of its travel speed, so that passengers can easily see if the driver is keeping within speed limits. Some of the newer buses also have lap belts installed and the government has made it compulsory that everyone puts on the seat belt if the mini-bus is equipped with them.

3) The taxis

They're everywhere! One of the easiest and most convenient way of getting anywhere. Generally it's very easy to hail a cab, except during rainy days and rush hours. Flag-down price is HK$18 (US$2.3). Taxis are color-coded according to the areas they serve:
Red for urban taxis; green for New Territories taxis; blue for Lantau taxis.

4) The trains
Our "metro." The MTR (Mass Transit Railway). One of the most efficient, traffic-free ways of getting around Hong Kong. It's hard to get lost here in Hong Kong, but if ever you are, all you need to do is to have someone direct you to the nearest MTR station and you're pretty much "back on track," so to speak.

Oh, do check out the special train that takes you to Hongkong Disneyland. Instead of the usual rectangular windows, they have Mickey-shaped windows! Talk about the Disney experience. They really reel you in even before you step onto Disney grounds.

5) The trams
Locals call these the "Ding-Ding," because of the ding-ding-ding sounds it makes as it rumbles by. At HK$2 (USD0.25) per ride --regardless of distance, --this is probably the cheapest way to get around Hong Kong Island if you are not in a rush.

And... you can rent one of these trams for a private party while it ding-ding-dings its way around Hong Kong Island. Check this out:

6) The ferries
I'm not a big fan of ferries. Only because I easily get seasick. BUT. I do love taking the Star Ferry whenever I can to get from either Wanchai, Central, or North Point over to the Kowloon side. At least on the Star Ferry, I can feel the wind blow, unlike the enclosed DB ferries and the other ones that take you to the other outlying islands.

Technically, there are still other modes of transport, but these are the main ones. You can easily while away an afternoon just hopping on and off different rides. Stopping in-between rides to take in some local "culture." It makes for a fun adventure with the kiddies on a lazy day!

Photo credits:
1) Buses, taxis, ferry: Hong Kong Transport Department
2) Tram (left photo): Wikipedia
Tram (right photo) and party tram: Mine!
3) Mini-bus: Wikipedia


Veronica Lee said...

Yeap, I'm totally with you. Hong Kong's and Singapore's public transport systems are among the best in Asia.
I love the food, shopping and of course DisneyLand.

a Tonggu Momma said...

This made me think of one of my favorite pictures from China. In Beijing, we saw a city bus with the English words "City Boat" written on it. Heh.

Chris said...

Very cool! I hope to visit Hong Kong someday.

Leslie said...


Jennifer said...

How cool! I love the Disney train! And the 'Ding-Ding'! LOL! I would love to visit HK!

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