28 Aug The many faces of the Hong Kong Tramways
More than 150 trams traverse the city daily and they have a lot more to offer than their cheap fare and photogenic look. Next time you hop on Hong Kong Tramways, do so without a destination in mind and explore the many faces of the city from a different perspective, from the top deck of a ding ding.
Traversing Hong Kong for over a century
More than a century, the Hong Kong Tramways (“ding ding”) has transported people across the island. Then shining beacon of modernity, powered by electricity instead of steam or horses. Now, a tangible link to the past, without losing their prominent role in the city’s public transportation system. Sharing a market with the Hong Kong MTR, the best transport system in the world, still almost 200,000 people use the tram everyday to get from A to B. What’s more, they’re the best way to get an intimate glimpse of the unique spirit of Hong Kong. We’ve tried three for you, so hop on!
A city tour by tram is a great choice if you feel like a leisurely exploration of Hong Kong. On the day I took the ‘TramOramic Tour‘, a beautiful 1920s-style open top tram awaited me at the Western Market. The other participants and I were welcomed by tram attendant Kitty, who was wearing a dress that wouldn’t look out of place in the twenties, or in the shop windows of Shanghai Tang for that matter. She handed each of us a set of earphones and a Golden Ticket. The shiny paper card brought us back to the times when, instead of beeping your Octopus card, you had to buy a ticket to ride. Before heading West, Kitty wished us a good tour – her beaming smile let us know she meant it.
A glimpse of the past
While we passed the skyscrapers and the occasional historic building, a pleasant British voice whispered anecdotes and facts into my ears. When it fell silent, a catchy tune started playing and you could let your eyes wander over the interior of the tram. Props and photos of past time and old commercials show the proud history. After making a loop around the Happy Valley racecourse we arrived at the Queensway tram stop, the end of our hour-long ride.
As a souvenir we got a 2-day free pass and a beautiful map of Hong Kong with it
Refreshing and flavourful: Kam Fung’s cooled milk tea
If you find an audio tour a bit too static, spending an afternoon exploring along the tracks iDiscover Ding Ding is a great alternative. A designer map and savvy app point out the cool places to eat, shop and drink along the tramway line.
The map led me to Kam Fung Café 金鳳茶餐廳, where I picked up a refreshing cold milk tea. Unsurprisingly, the habit of adding milk to a cup of tea was introduced to Hong Kong by the British. Hong Kong milk tea is completely different from a British cuppa though; instead of fresh milk, the Hongkonger prefers a dollop of condensed milk for a stronger flavour. Rejuvenated, I boarded another tram and include one or two more stops.
A party on a tram? Yes please! Enjoy the ultimate casualness of attending a moving party. The downside of this pleasant flexibility is of course the actual possibility of missing the party. So make sure you hop on at the right stop. Once you’re on though, time is easily forgotten. There is something intoxicating about standing on the back balcony, Hong Kong’s skyscrapers gliding past. As the time goes by, the laughter on board blends with the millions of lights that fill the night sky. Back at the Whitty Street Tram Depot, there’s plenty of options nearby to continue the party.
The dazzling, ever-changing background
TramOramic Tour . For visitors, it is a fun and accessible introduction to the history of this sometimes intimidating city. For locals, the tour will add a layer of stories to their life in Hong Kong, e.g. that of the tram conductor’s ‘red meals’ and the irony in the name ‘Happy Valley’.
Thematic Journeys . If you like exploring Hong Kong at your own pace, iDiscover App & Map is a good choice. Hop-off and hop-on wherever you like and find those places that make HK so unique.
Tram party . Having a party on the roof of a tram is simply one of those things you have to do – at least – once in your life. Also, it is the only chance you’ll ever get to legally snack on board of public transport in Hong Kong, a simple pleasure you’re usually kept from by strict prohibition.
Kam Fung Café . 金鳳茶餐廳 . 41 Spring Garden Lane . Wan Chai
Want to explore yourself? Download the free iDiscover Hong Kong app to travel like a local!
Guest Blogger, Literary and Cultural Analysis student at the University of Amsterdam
When I travel, I don’t want to be merely a visitor. To create a feeling of belonging, I capture fragments of the places I visit in words. The forgotten story of a building, the smell of the air and the taste of that dish sold on the corner of the street. I would like to show you the people and places that stick with me when I move on to my next destinations.