Shanghai is noted for its modern transportation infrastructure, the mag-lev trains and high speed rail. Hong Kong is noted for its 19th century transportation infrastructure, the Peak Tram, the rattling old double decker trams on Hong Kong Island and the Star Ferry. Suzi and I, of course, rode all three on this port call. The Star Ferry is listed, by lonely Planet, as the number one tourist attraction in the city. I agree.
A Parsee from Bombay, Dorabjee Nowjoree, started running it in 1888 and it’s been going ever since. Nowjoree called the ferry “star” because the five pointed star is an important Zoroastrian symbol. Each ferry has star in its name, like “Solar Star.” The actual ferries we rode on have been in service for 54 years.
When Suzi and I stepped on board Thursday a flood of memories hit me from past trips to Hong Kong, riding with the boys between our digs at the YMCA in Kowloon (see separate post) to those double decker trams on Hong Kong Island. Those happy memories hit me especially when I looked down at the seats and saw a five pointed star punched out in each seat bottom.
Even nicer, now that Suzi and I are over 65 we ride the Star Ferry for free. We needed to get an “Elder Octopus Card” to do it. You can’t get that at the Star Ferry Terminal (but you still get tokens for the turnstile), but we needed an Octopus card anyway to ride the MTR (Metro) and the rickety double decker trams. We got one at an MRT station. The card also got us on the peak Tram with a huge “senior concession” discount. Mass transit in Hong Kong is really cheap once you’re retired and don’t need to use it to get to work.
When the Kowloon and Canton Railway connected Hong Kong to the mainland it terminated at the Star Ferry Concourse. The train station is gone but the old clock tower remains. There’s been some speculation that the ferry may become redundant, with several tunnels under the harbor carrying both cars and the MTR (Metro). But the Star Ferry is so loved that I think it will continue until the “land reclamation” that’s extending land to both sides of the harbor finally connects Hong Kong to Kowloon. The Hong Kong terminus has already been moved closer to Kowloon (see map below.) That will take a long time. The reproduction terminal looks “original” but it is not. On the Kowloon side the Star Ferry concourse is the same as it has been for years.
I love riding the ferry and could happily ride back and forth just for the joy of riding back and forth with the best views in Hong Kong. And so we did, on the upper deck, for free!