Monday, May 30, 2016

[Hong Kong 2016] Riding on Ding Ding Trams!

Photo By: Elin Chow
Website: Hong Kong Tramways

During my recent trip to Hong Kong, we decided to hop onto the double decker trams to get around and see the city in a leisurely way.

Ding Ding, the tram slowly approaches the station. The tram is affectionately known as "Ding Ding" by the locals. When approaching a station, the double bell on the tram rings, Ding Ding, hence the name. The purpose of the bell is to warn traffic and pedestrians of its approach.

Ding Ding trams have been traversing the busy streets of Hong Kong since 1904 and is the earliest and oldest form of transportation in the metropolis. The Hong Kong Tramways own and operate a fleet of 163 double decker tramcars, making it the world's largest fleet of double decker trams still in service. It is the only tram system that runs exclusively on double decker trams.

The Ding Ding trams run between the east and west along the northern coast of Hong Kong island. With a total of 120 stops, the trams provide transportation services on 6 routes over 30 km of tramways, operating from 6 am till midnight everyday. The tramways stretch from Kennedy Town in the west to Shau Kei Wan in the east, with a branch circulating the Happy Valley racecourse. There are route maps at every station.

Each tram will display their final destination on the front of the tram, so you do not have to worry about taking the wrong one. The trams will stop at every stations and run at least twice every hour. Stations are located at an average of 250 m and it is easy for anyone to locate the trams without getting lost.

Riding on a Ding Ding Tram is one of the best way to explore Hong Kong. We boarded at Western Market terminus at Sheung Wan heading towards Shau Kei Wan terminus. The journey from Western Market terminus to Shau Kei Wan terminus took about 90 minutes, traveling over 100+ stops, from one end of the line to another end.

The Ding Ding tram is boarded on the left side through the back door and the fares are paid only when you exit via the front door. Climbing the steps onto the tram, we had to struggled to pass through a very narrow turnstile that prevent passengers from exiting the tram without paying.

Inside the tram, we walked through a very narrow corridor with rows of two wooden seats on either sides. We climbed up the narrow spiral staircase to the upper level, heading towards the window seats on the right side. The seats on the upper deck offer the best view and photo opportunities. I would highly recommend anyone to get a seat upstairs to enjoy the best experience.

Since we boarded from the terminus, we had the best chance of getting a seat at the upper deck. The tram was quite empty when it arrived at the Western Market Terminus station.

The non-air conditioned trams are surprisingly well-preserved and very clean. However, it can get very crowded during rush hours as locals use the tram to commute to and from work every day. During peak hours, both tourists and locals will be packed inside the trams like sardines, which is definitely not going to be an enjoyable experience.

Although standing is allowed in the trams, it is likely that you would not have chance to take photos and enjoy the sights along the track. I would advise anyone to avoid the peak hours during weekdays for the best experience.

Ding Ding Trams are cheapest mode of transportation on the island. The fare is HKD 2.30 for adult, HKD 1.20 for children under 12, and HKD 1.10 for senior citizens aged 65 and above. Tram fare are the same flat rate regardless of the distance traveled and can be paid either in cash or by the Octopus card.

For those who are paying in cash, there is a coin box located by the exit next to the driver. Please note that exact amount of coins have to be given when you exit from the tram. For budget traveler, the Ding Ding tram is certainly the most cheapest way to get around the island. The trams are very affordable, reliable and convenient. You do not have to walk a long way to MTR station to take the trains if you are not in a hurry.

All the trams are colorfully painted and decorated with advertisements. Since the opening of MTR West Island line, the tramway has been suffering a steady decline in ridership to an average of 200,000 passengers daily. Today, the advertisements are an important source of revenues for the trams.

Trams travel at relatively low speed and are very environmentally friendly as they emit zero emissions. Riding on a tram provides us plenty amount of time to enjoy the views along the tram track.

Along the way, we passed by several MTR stations. The tram track is built parallel to the MTR with the central MTR line going through an identical route as the tram. Do not take the tram if you are in a hurry. You might want to take the MTR instead if you are short of time. You are able to reach your destination in just a few minutes with the MTR.

Riding on a Ding Ding tram is an unique experience.The tram is not only a form of transportation in the city, but also an iconic symbol of Hong Kong.For over a century, Ding Ding trams have been part of Hong Kong culture and locals' daily life. A ride on the tram will give you a glimpse of Hong Kong everyday street life - a sight which you would not able to see if you are riding on the MTR.

The tram ride was however, a little bumpy and noisy due to traffic congestion. I believe it might be worst during the peak hours.

We spend our time looking out of the open windows, observing the the life of the locals. As the tram move, I could feel the gentle wind brushing across my face. Although the windows are wide open, the wind was actually not cooling enough. This is probably not going to be a pleasurable ride during hot weather days.

We pass through bustling residential area and main city center where you will find the financial core of Hong Kong.

The main road are full of organized traffic, and are lined with skyscrapers, shopping malls, trendy restaurants and traditional eateries.

The narrow side streets are crammed with makeshift markets selling all sorts of wares. You probably would not know the existence of these markets if you are taking the MTR.

Occasionally, we get to see trams going the other way as well. The trams are so close to each other till you could reach out your hand and touch the passengers in the passing tram.

While sitting on the tram, I noticed that Hong Kong is very similar to Singapore in many ways. The towering skylines, congested roads and crowded shopping districts.

People always seems to be in a hurry, even on a Sunday.  With a population of 7 millions, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Both countries are highly competitive society where people work day and night to keep up with the fast pace of life.

Having lived in Singapore for most of my life, I am sorry to say that Hong Kong certainly does not amaze me, except for the nice food.

The two cities are so similar, yet different in its unique ways. Unlike Hong Kong, the streets in Singapore are actually more pristine and sterile clean. You probably would not find congested shopping districts on narrow streets or makeshift markets anywhere, especially around the center city area in Singapore. Air pollution level is high in Hong Kong and the streets are always crowded with vehicles and people.

The buildings in Hong Kong are so old and dilapidated that seems to be on the verge of collapsing. However, the high density of the population makes rebuilding nearly impossible. Some people think that this is the true beauty of Hong Kong and what makes the city entirely different from Singapore.

Passing through the Hong Kong's central area, we are surprised to see thousands of maids gathering in trains stations, parks and outside of public buildings. It was a Sunday, which was also their fixed once-a-week working day off. Every Sunday, you will see the maids meet and gather in the public spaces where they will socalize, eat and sing, blocking the facade of luxury stores and metro exits. It is quite sight!

A trip to Hong Kong is never complete without a ride on the Ding Ding Tram.Passengers are free to hop on at any tram station and jump off anywhere along the route as you like.

However, the tram ride can get pretty boring after a while. It actually took longer than we expected. Halfway through the journey, my eyelids were slowly drooping. I was falling asleep. To prevent myself from sleep, I took out my camera and started to snap lots of photos of the same old buildings, streets, shops and people along the way. I tried to enjoy the ride but it was difficult. Everywhere I look, it was the same old buildings, streets and shops.

Even so, it is still a great way to see Hong Kong. You will notice things you will never notice when you are on the ground. I would recommend anyone to take a ride on the Ding Ding Trams if you have spare time in Hong Kong.

Be sure to follow me on my Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my Hong Kong trip! Also, do not forget to share my blog posts with your family and friends if you find them helpful. In the meantime, you might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.


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