After a day spent on the plane arriving in to Hong Kong, I was reminded yet again, how good it would be to have even reasonable (forget good!) public transport in Auckland. There are many options for getting around Hong Kong. With my oyster card, I was able to immediately get on to a train and start to use the system without worrying about cash etc to get around.
The Express train from the airport takes about half an hour to get in to Hong Kong Island – with video footage and live maps to show you where you are. From Hong Kong Central station, in to one of the ubiquitous red taxi cabs to get to my hotel which is in the mid-levels a good 10 – 15 minutes walk away from the busy part of the Island. the taxi cost was NZ$4 for the trip. I see why so many people use them! Auto opening/closing doors. There are literally hundreds of these all round when you go anywhere in Hong Kong – mostly looking a little down at heel and with evidence on them of occasional “disputes”, but they are so convenient and cheap.
Next morning, after finally emerging, I walked down to the Macao ferry terminal to buy a ticket for the ferry to Macao. Hong Kong Island has lots of overhead pedestrian footpaths. These are great as they allow traffic below to pass freely and there are no traffic lights to be concerned about while up in the pedestrian section. Many of them disappear into and through the large shopping malls or hotels and they are often decorated with flowers etc to help them to be less forbidding. Surprisingly enough, they are not quite as crammed as the footpaths lower.
The ferry terminus was full of shops and little restaurants. I managed to get a ticket on the ferry for my tip to Macau and then wandered out on to the main road – still up in the air of course. One drawback – if you are a tourist – is that you can’t just take a fancy to a shop or other sight and decide to “pop in”.
However one thing I have never done here was to take a tram ride, so I decided to travel on the tram to Happy Valley. The cost – about NZ 35 cents! for this exorbitant amount of money (!!!) I was able to ride for about half an hour on a ride through the main streets of Hong Kong Island. Almost literally rubbing noses with passengers in passing trams or the trams in front. These trams were originally called “ding-ding” by the locals, because their bells made a ding-ding sound. They still do, but the air is punctuated more by the sound of the tram’s horn, because nowadays they have to be louder than the buses and other traffic. Brightly (and generally multi-) coloured, the trams seem to appear, travelling along the centre of the main road, one about every half minute or so, going to multifarious destinations. These were the first means of public transport on HK Island and the fact that they are still there, full of people bears testimony to their effectiveness. On the way back from Happy Valley, an ambulance did “pass” my tram. However 5 minutes later – because of the crush of traffic, it was merely four or five cars in front of the tram!
Happy Valley was indeed a happy place. Many fewer people and of course the Happy Valley Race course. I took a photo for Dad. The air was clean and the temperature felt less hot. I had hoped to see the Hong Kong Stadium as well, but on the return trip passed frustratingly close – with just a hill to separate. Stopping at the Pacific Plaza, it was a walk up an escalator to Hong Kong Park, which had the compulsory wedding party taking photos but was very nicely set out with little lakes, fountains and some nice English colonial houses serving now as restaurants and art galleries. the tram trip had taken nearly an hour – noisy? Yes! But it allowed me to experience the sights sounds and smells of this very heavily populated city.
There were some really interesting trees to be seen at Happy Valley. they are all over the place, but notice in one of these photos how the roots of the tree begin to flow the oblong shape of the cobble stones, rather than the random mish-mash of the roots near the trunk of the tree. there search for survival must have driven the root development, but I thought it was a really interesting sight.
On these trees, there are extra roots which hang down from the branches of the tree, presumably to obtain or merely search for extra sustenance. People here say that they are ghosts and if there are lots of them then the tree has many ghosts!
This was a full day adventure in Hong Kong. While it is difficult as a New Zealander to imagine living in a place where there are so many people everywhere, the options open to one for public transport here make one wish that in Auckland at least (where there may be enough people to make it a profitable enterprise) we could look forward to an effective system of public transport. Hopefully this is one arrea where the much vaunted super-city can take a lead.