Riding HK Tram and Ferry

WE’VE SEEN THEM often enough – the HK trams and the Star Ferry, HK’s famed transportations that have century-old histories, both considered heritage and cultural treasures of Hong Kong – but never really found the opportunity to ride on them.

We walked, we took the bus, yet never gave the “Ding Ding” (as locals call the trams) a go. Largely because we had Joe and Samson. 🙂

According to its official website, the tram system that began in 1904 has “the world’s largest fleet of double-deck tramcars still in operation”. Its tracks cover the length of HK Island between Kennedy Town (westbound) and Shau Kei Wan (eastbound), so with a single fare, commuters can effectively travel from east to west and vice-versa.

On this date – after two years in HK – daughter and I finally decided to find out for ourselves what a single fare of HK$2 (and half price for passengers under 12 and over 65) can show us. It is by far the cheapest mode of transportation in HK and recorded some 233,000 riders a day (SCMP, 2010 statistics). (The fares has since increased to HK$2.30 and HK$1.20).

From home, we took a bus to the nearest tram stop – Wan Chai. On our way we passed a Grade 1 Heritage Building known as the Blue House.

Blue House

The Blue House on 74 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai.

“The Blue House is a four-storey Lingnan-style house built in the 1920s with a mixture of Chinese and Western architectural features. The distinctive blue colour was not a deliberate aesthetic decision – the decorators only had blue paint, so a blue house it became. In the 1950s and 1960s, kung fu master Wong Fei-hung’s student Lam Sai-wing and his nephew launched their kung fu studio here. There are still residents occupying the structure, despite a lack of modern conveniences such as flush toilets. The building also houses the Wan Chai Livelihood Museum, where visitors can visit the Blue House’s typical living quarters.” (Source: http://www.discoverhongkong.com)

Back to the trams. We decided to journey westbound, and found ourselves passing familiar landmarks like Pacific Place (in Admiralty district); the Legislative Council building, Exchange Square, International Financial Centre, Western Market and Shun Tak Centre (in Sheung Wan & Central district); the dried food wholesalers on Des Voeus Rd where I used to get my supply (in Western District).

Taken from the tram in Sheung Wan and Western Market.

We got off at the last stop in Kennedy Town Terminus, explored a bit, walked a lot and found ourselves looking out at Victoria Harbour.

In Kennedy Town, M by the seaside with Mt. Davis visible in the background; looking out to Victoria Harbour.

In Kennedy Town, M by the seaside with Mt. Davis visible in the background; looking out to Victoria Harbour.

After a McD meal nearby, we decided we had seen enough and took the tram back to Southern Playground (in Wan Chai district) where we got a lift from Samson who took us to Tsim Sha Tsui to meet hubby.

While waiting for hubby to complete his task at hand, M and I checked out the TST’s Avenue of Stars.

Bruce Lee on the Avenue of Stars with HK Island skyline and Victoria Harbour in the background.

Bruce Lee and other exhibits on the Avenue of Stars with HK Island skyline and Victoria Harbour in the background.

Two days later, M and I decided to do the Star Ferry too. We had gone to the Science Museum (in Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon) to meet Daravan and Danita. The girls enjoyed the afternoon with numerous hands-on exhibits.

The girls at the Science Museum.

The girls at the Science Museum.

After the Science Museum, we walked to the TST Star Ferry Pier and took our first ferry ride at HK$2.50 (adult) and HK$1.50 (child) across Victoria Harbour. Within 15 minutes we arrived back on HK Island at the Central Star Ferry Pier. The Star Ferry reportedly has an origin that goes back to the 1880s!

Its official website wrote that “The National Geographic Traveler named the ferry crossing as one of 50 places (to visit) of a lifetime.” OK, done! 🙂

Sceneries during the ferry ride, including the Hong Kong Convention & Expo Centre.

Sceneries during the ferry ride, including the Hong Kong Convention & Expo Centre.

While the tram is still the cheapest mode of transportation in HK, the Star Ferry is said to be “one of the world’s best value-for-money sightseeing trips”.

Indeed, both the tram and ferry were inexpensive ways to see a fair bit of Hong Kong.

Charms of Cherry Blossoms

GOING BY THE saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do”, during our time in Washington DC, we did what thousands of Washingtonians and foreigners do every spring – flock to the Tidal Basin and admire the cherry blossoms.

The cherry trees were presented by Japan to the United States as a gift of friendship in 1912, and the first two were planted on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. Today the cherry trees can be found around the Tidal Basin as well as in East Potomac Park (Haines Point) and on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

We are no cherry blossoms aficionados but when we visited in the spring of 2000, I was so taken by the fluffy blossoms at its peak I almost named my unborn child Cherry!

This was one of our trips to the Tidal Basin during the cherry blossoms, 25 March 2000.

One of our trips to the Tidal Basin during the cherry blossoms, 25 March 2000.

The blossoms are best viewed at its peak and thus is always widely anticipated. The blooming period is when 20% of the blossoms are opened while the peak period is when 70% of the blossoms around the Tidal Basin are open. The period between blooming and peak typically takes about two weeks. The cherry blossom season varies yearly depending on the weather but is typically between March and April.

Cherry blossoms 1999

At the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the background, 8 April 1999.

The year before in 1999, cooler temperatures resulted in an April peak. That year, along with the cherry trees, beavers at the Tidal Basin were in the news too. A family of beavers reportedly fell at least nine trees and damaged a few others; raising concerns for the national treasures.

It seemed the cherry trees in the Tidal Basin not only attracted rodents but also perverts, well, ONE that we witnessed personally.

While visitors armed with cameras took pictures of the blossoms, this chap was more interested in bottoms and aimed under the skirts of unsuspecting women. We saw his despicable act before we lost him in the crowd.