Thursday, 30 September 2010

News Article: The kaleidoscopic world inside a Hong Kong tram

Something local, something cool.

There are many more beautiful pictures in the website of the article below, but I can't copy them, so you can go there and read up.

But if you want vocabulary, you can stay here first. And if you like old things about Hong Kong, you are highly adviced to visit Gwulo : Old Hong Kong

Possible location: Des Voeux Road Central
Image from

 The kaleidoscopic world inside a Hong Kong tram

CNNGo reader Edison Hung takes a ride on a tram and enjoys the diversity of people within, still using Hong Kong's oldest transportation system

By Edison Hung 29 September, 2010

If I am asked to pick a word to describe the tram -- the oldest public transportation in Hong Kong, running since 1904, I would choose bizarre. It is bizarre in the sense that its existence is actually contrary to the living qualities modern people pursue in everyday life. 

It is not efficient in terms of speed. It is not comfortable as there is no air-conditioning or nice fabric seating. Unlike the bus or minibus, where the passengers can enjoy TV or the radio, there is no entertainment provided.

Nevertheless, the tram has run on the Hong Kong Island for more than a century, and I am pretty sure that we will hear the ‘ding-ding’ sound ringing from the tram for a long period of time.

So how can it be? What makes the tram so unique that it can still exist without being knocked out by other transportations?

Low price is a reason, but it alone can’t explain the whole picture. If you pay enough attention to both outside and inside a tram car, it is not difficult to discover the rich diversity of passengers which cannot be found in any other transportation.

Observing their activities and the street scenes is not only interesting, but also a way to unveil a missed part of life in Hong Kong.

It is not surprising to find elderly on the vehicle, but seldom do people notice that more old people like to go upstairs. Probably it is because the tram moves slowly, making it safer when they are moving up and down.

To start their day, the elderly take the tram to different parks along the railway like Victoria Park for morning exercise, tai chi practice or a game of chess. After a morning of activities, it's time to take care of their grandchildren, as their parents have gone for working.

Riding the tram is also a good way of spending a nice, sunny afternoon. It is not difficult to find kids sitting on their grandparents' laps, looking out the window and asking this and that, or the greybeard holding babies in their arms and waving a fan for them.

In this sense, the tram is not only about transportation, it can also be a space full of warm moments where we recall the long lost childhood memories we have with our own grandparents.

Taking photos on the tram is always a favorite among photographers, both professional and amateur. Indeed there are many places that are peculiar along the railway that are worthy to be captured.

For instance, the ‘dry seafood street’ (Des Voeux Road West) in Sheung Wan, where you can find an entire row of shops selling the same type of product such as dried shark's fin and dried shrimp.

Or taking photos of some attractive buildings in Central like Legislative Council Building and HSBC headquarters. Without a doubt it would be more difficult to take a good shot while the tram is moving, yet it is a challenge that most photographers would not hesitate to take.

Domestic helpers are another type of passenger adding color to the tram, making the ride more interesting. If it is a weekday, you can find them with several red or white plastic bags on the tram as they have just finished buying food for lunch and dinner.

The tram is so convenient for them since it can take them to different street markets: Wan Chai Market, Shau Kei Wan Market and North Point Market in particular, which the tram runs through directly. Having the tram pass through the market appears dangerous yet it remains very safe to shop in Hong Kong.

The scene is different on Sundays. It is every domestic worker's day off. Victoria Park and Statue Square are popular hangout places for them to spend with their peers.

Since the tram can reach both locations directly, it is the favored means of transportation. Surrounded by the restless buzz of Filipino and Indonesian workers, you can find them everywhere inside a tram car.

Being slow finds its advantage at night, when lovers can enjoy more romantic moments being together on the tram. Ladies usually sit next to the window and lean lightly against their partners’ shoulders. After a hard day of work, couples can now embrace in the gentle breeze blowing in and relax with their beloved one.

The tram can be a reflection of a society in microscopic scale, which enables a deeper understanding of people's lifestyles. Apart from those mentioned above, there are indeed many more types of passengers: half-drunken ladies in provocative wear singing loudly after having a good time in Lan Kwai Fong, foreigners looking up and down from a map to check where they should get off, to name but a few.

So why don’t you take a tram ride and explore yourself?

Service Information of Tram:

Fee: HK$2 for adults, HK$1 for senior citizens and children

Operation hour: from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Website of Hong Kong Tramways Limited :
'Ding Ding' Hong Kong Tram Guide by Hong Kong Tourism Board:

kaleidoscope -- (n) [C] a tube-like toy that you look through to see different patterns of light made by pieces of coloured glass and mirrors

kaleidoscopic -- (adj) quickly changing from one thing to another
bizarre --(adj) very strange and unusual
pursue -- (vb) [T] If you pursue a plan, activity or situation, you try to do it or achieve it, usually over a long period of time
lap -- (n) [C usually singular] the top surface of the upper part of the legs of a person who is sitting down
greybeard -- (n) men with grey beard on the face.
amateur -- (n) a person who takes part in an activity for pleasure, not as a job
peculiar -- (adj) unusual and strange, sometimes in an unpleasant way
restless -- (adj) unwilling or unable to stay still or to be quiet and calm, because you are worried or bored
buzz -- (n)[S] informal a feeling of excitement, energy and pleasure
microscopic -- (adj) specialized very small and only able to be seen with a microscope
provocative -- (adj) If behaviour or clothing is provocative, it is intended to cause sexual desire

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