Trains, trams and
HONG KONG HAS ONE OF THE SAFEST, CHEAPEST AND MOST EFFICIENT PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEMS IN THE WORLD ... AND USING IT CAN BE A LOT OF FUN!
It’s common knowledge that using public transport is one way to reduce your carbon footprint. In cities this is even more important: driving a car in a city centre causes pollution that leads to health problems such asthma, as well as contributing to climate change through carbon dioxide emissions.
And when each car carries just one passenger, each individual’s environmental impact is increased – especially when heavy traffic causes congestion and even more pollution.
We wanted to get from North Point on Hong Kong Island to see the Buddha statue on Lantau Island. The easiest and most convenient way to get there would have been by taxi. But instead, we did things differently – and had a hugely memorable and enjoyable day of exploration.
Hong Kong junk Aqua Luna; Tian Tan Big Buddha
Hong Kong’s rickety double-decker trams shuttle backwards and forwards across Hong Kong Island and are an atmospheric way to see the city. They are also ridiculously cheap – our trip for four from North Point to Central cost about HK$8 (US$1/£0.70p).
Sitting on the upper deck of the tram we got a great view of buildings and landmarks, such as the extraordinary architectural extravagance of the Lippo Centre towers. The journey took a while, though – trams stop frequently to set down and pick up passengers.
The tram’s air-conditioning consisted of an open window, so it was a relief to get out and into the cool elevated walkways that allow pedestrians safe passage through the city centre.
You can actually get almost anywhere in Central (and beyond) by using this complex network of high-rise tunnels and bridges – and without ever having to walk along a street at ground level. Our walkway took us over a bridge, through a mall and down to the pier, where we bought tickets for the boat to Lantau.
The boat trip to Lantau Island provided fabulous views of the city’s skyline – and for added interest there are plenty of colourful boats bobbing around in the harbour, including the Hong Kong junk, Aqua Luna. After just under an hour we arrived at Mui Wo on Lantau.
“IT’S A STEEP CLIMB UP 268 STEPS, BUT ONCE AT THE TOP YOU’RE REWARDED WITH SPECTACULAR VIEWS OF THE SURROUNDING LANDSCAPE”
From Mui Wo it’s a 40-minute bus ride up to Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Big Buddha. The bronze figure is the largest seated Buddha statue in the world. And it’s pretty big. The statue dominates the landscape as you approach – and the day we visited it was swathed in clouds of swirling mist, adding to the mystery and grandeur.
It’s a steep climb up 268 steps, but once at the top you are rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. Only when standing directly under the Buddha can you appreciate its immensity – it’s 34m high and weighs 250 tonnes. Be sure to check out each of the angel statues that surround the Buddha and hold up various offerings.
The Ngong Ping 360 cable car travels six kilometres down the hillside to Tung Chung, a journey of around 25 minutes. The views of the green peaks of Lantau are spectacular, and you’ll catch numerous glimpses of the vast Tian Tan Buddha as you descend. You’ll also get a bird’s-eye view of the international airport at Chek Lap Kok.
Spotlessly clean, fast, cheap and efficient, Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway or MTR is easy to use and whisks you under the city on one of its nine lines. It’s best avoided at rush hour (5pm-7pm) when it gets extremely crowded.
We could have used the MTR to get all the way back to North Point, but decided to stop off in Kowloon. We made our way along the harbour front just in time to catch the Symphony of Lights – an impressive light and sound show with colourful lights on the skyscrapers of Central flashing rhythmically to music. We particularly enjoyed the lights cascading in diamond formation down the iconic Bank of China building.
Colourful boats bob in Victoria Harbour; the city illuminated during the Symphony of Lights
It would be impossible to do a public transport tour of Hong Kong without experiencing the Star Ferry service. The ferries ply backwards and forwards across Victoria Harbour from Tsim Shua Tsui in Kowloon to Central every 10 minutes or so.
Great views of both Central and Kowloon are guaranteed, especially when the city is lit up at night. Like the trams, the service is cheap – a family of four can travel for less than US$1.5/£1.
The final leg of our journey involved one more trip on the MTR. We emerged from Quarry Bay station and headed back to our hotel, having experienced what must be one of the most efficient, comprehensive – and enjoyable – public transport systems in the world.
Green Adventures March 2015