Transport Options

Sat. 6th July 2019

Kowloon Cricket Club getting ready for actionFor all of the walking we did yesterday, we stuck to the main tourist centres of Kowloon and the facing shore on Hong Kong island. Indeed, you can’t get more touristy than the Star Ferry shuttling back and fore between the two. Today’s plan is to venture further afield, to get off the beaten track – and hopefully (as voted for by our tired legs) to take fewer steps. As we look out of our hotel window down at the grounds for both the Kowloon Cricket Club and the Bowling Club, it is starting to dawn on us that there is a lot more to Hong Kong than just the crowds and all the high-rise buildings.

Fishing boats in Chai Wan harbourOne of our aims for the day is try different modes of transport and in particular the trams that run along the north shore of Hong Kong island as we’ve read that there are some great views to be had from the tram once out of the main built-up areas. So, with not much more thought than that, we hop on the MTR (metro) and, with a change of train, head out to Chai Wan the last stop for both MTR and tram on the eastern side of the north shore of the island. To the south there is a country park with hiking trails – but taking those would violate our fewer steps goal for the day. Also, the heat and humidity are very sapping and (wisely) we decide to conserve our energy and make do with viewing the harbour in Chai Wan.

The channel between HK island and Kowloon - built up all along both sidesWe’re certainly now off the tourist trail and we get a few strange looks from the locals as we walk out along the working (industrial) docks. The only way to get a view of the harbour or out to sea, is to walk to the end of the harbour arm (past a very oddly located Mercedes-Benz showroom). Once we get there, the views are (unsurprisingly) of big fishing boats in the harbour and, looking down the length of the breakwater, of the channel between Kowloon and the island lined with apartment blocks and skyscrapers. OK, but we must be able to do better than this – there must be some green somewhere!

Our target transport option for the dayThe tram terminus is only a short walk away and whilst it is only marked by a loop in the lines at least there is a constant stream of trams coming through. Morning is marching on and our lunch plan was set in stone the instant that Janet discovered that Little Creatures, whom we visited in Freemantle, have a micro-brewery in Kennedy Town at the other end of the tram line. We did know that they were no longer a tiny independent craft brewer, but their pale ale has been consistently one of our favourites so this is too good an opportunity to miss. Consulting Google Maps, though, highlights the flaw in our plan – the tram takes 1hr46min to travel the breadth of the island. We’re not going to want to be on the tram that long, so Plan B (for Bus) is required.

Our favourite Aussie brewers here in Hong KongTo the dismay of our legs, Plan B soon became Plan W(alk). We have generally found Google Maps knowledge of bus routes to be good but sometimes it pays to be paranoid and so we spotted when the bus went off route and it wasn’t too far to walk to get back on the MTR and out to Kennedy Town. Much more of an Aussie than an Asian vibe to Little Creatures (unsurprising, I suppose) but at least there were some local ‘K-Town’ beers on offer. In this heat it was tempting to spend more of the afternoon just sitting here and working our way through the list of beers. Tempting, but not going to happen as we have more places to see and we still haven’t had that tram ride yet.

Memorial to the smallpox hospitalHaving been east and west of the island, we now want to head to Aberdeen a town (more like city as it turns out) on the south-west corner. It should be just a bus ride away, but once again Google lets us down and the bus stop isn’t where its marked on the map. And once again, it is our legs that have to pick up the slack with an uphill walk to the next bus stop – though the upside is that we get to walk past the memorial for the old smallpox hospital. Once on the bus, it winds round (and up and down) the island and we start to see some patches of green.

Look fresh, but I'm really not sure about the water they have been swimming inOnce we get to Aberdeen, any notion that we had of finding a sleepy little fishing village is instantly dispelled by the ranks of tower blocks and the throng of people. We spot the market and feel compelled to poke our noses in, but we’ve seen so many incredible markets in our travels that this one is way down the league. The fishing heritage is retained in the market with stalls selling fish portioned up in metal dishes – though having looked at the water, I’m not tempted. Through Aberdeen Square with its odd monument is the waterfront with a promenade running along its length. The island of Ap Lei Chau is only a stone’s throw away and the channel between the two is marked as a typhoon shelter (for boats). There’s a lot of activity on the water, with ferries running across to the island, fishing boats coming and going and worst of all, an old-style sampan decked up as a hop-on hop-off tour boat. No, no, no!

Horrible plastic tourist abominationHaving retraced our steps (well, bus ride) back to Kennedy Town, we decide that we do have time to take a ride on the tram – known as a ding-ding by the locals. Well, they may be romantic but if you’re in a rush, they are decidedly not practical – the air conditioning is entirely natural (no windows), the seats are wooden slats and they are so, so slow. Worst of all, the views are entirely of concrete buildings and bustling people – we should have known! We last about 15 minutes before deciding we’ve had enough and then the tram takes another 15 minutes to get us near an MTR stop. We don’t have all day you know.

Activity in the harbourAlthough last night’s sunset photography ended up being night photography, we thought it was sufficiently successful that it was worth having another go – especially, if we applied some lessons learned. At least here in Hong Kong we are now northern hemisphere summer and so sunset is more sensibly around 7:30 giving us chance to have a break before heading out again. Our target this evening is the ‘Avenue of Stars’ promenade down by the harbour – and one of the busiest places in Hong Kong. Far too much bustle and noise for serious photography. It is only as we are leaving that I spot a vantage point but only have the enthusiasm to use my phone to take the picture.

Looking along the 'Avenue of Stars' across the water to Hong Kong islandAfter dinner, we discover that the Zhang Men craft brewery is not far from our route back to the hotel and decide that it would be rude not to give it a try. Very nice too with some real chocolate and coffee flavours coming from my stout. As we sit enjoying our beers, we mull over the day and the transport options we have taken (and avoided – thinking of you HOHO sampan). Our legs don’t need to look at our watches to know that we’ve had another day with over 20k steps. We’re starting to appreciate that there is more to Hong Kong than just the central areas but we haven’t yet broken out of the built up areas. Legs, look out – we’re just going to have to try harder!

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