On the bustling streets of Hong Kong, you always hear the “ding ding” sound from our beloved trams that go all the way from Kennedy Town to Sau Kei Wan. The sound has become a symbolic so we just call the tram Ding Ding (叮叮).
The Hong Kong Tramways began operation in 1904 with 26 single-decker trams (10 trams for Western and 16 for Chinese passengers) running from Kennedy Town to Causeway Bay. The tracks extended to Happy Valley, and to Quarry Bay and Shau Kei Wan afterwards. Double-deckers were introduced in 1925.
I always love Ding Ding. It’s a very convenient, fun and low-cost transportation means, and you get to see interesting things during the ride. Here are the reasons why you should love Ding Ding too:
Hong Kong remains the only city in the world with full double-decker tram services. You hop on at the back and hop off at the front.
2. It’s an important historical symbol
Hong Kong Tramways has more than 110 years of history. With a full ride on the Ding Ding from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan (make sure you take a front row seat on the upper deck), you get to see the city from different angles. You pass by the streets full of dry seafood (海味街) in Sheung Wan, the skyscrapers in Central and Admiralty, the wet markets, Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) and small kiosks in North Point and Quarry Bay. Because it’s slow (maximum speed at 50 km/h with some trams going 60 km/h), you have enough time to take photos, look at the people pass by and observe the change in demographics in different districts. It’s the best way to witness and experience Hong Kong’s landmarks and history.
There are many tram stops along the streets of Hong Kong’s busiest districts. You never need to wait for a long time before it arrives. For instance, if you just want to go for lunch from Central to Admiralty, hop on a Ding Ding and after 2 minutes you will arrive. It’s a very efficient way to go on a short ride.
4. Fascinating wraps
The trams are sometimes wrapped with beautiful designs and interesting themes which refresh the boring streets. The wraps can be romantic love story or magical household gadgets that resonate to people’s everyday lives. And because it’s slow and there are many stops in between the hubs, people on the streets get extra time to look into details of the wraps. Sometimes they look like a slow-moving giant colorful blanket in the middle of the hectic streets.
5. It’s cheap
Hong Kong’ tram is the cheapest public transportation means in Hong Kong. Adults pay HK$2.3 for a ride while Children and Senior Citizens pay only HK$1.2 and HK$1.1 respectively as of the date this article is published (prices are set to be increased by 13 percent in early 2018). When I was younger, the fare was only HK$2, you just needed a “HK$2 big cookie” (兩蚊大餅) – nickname for the HK$2 coin in Cantonese – and you can get a tram ride.
6. No air-con, and it should be like that
Most of the Ding Ding still have not air-conditioning. This isn’t a bad thing at all. The challenge of having no air-con in the summer time definitely helps you keep yourself calm and embrace the nature wind. Plus, just after “shaking” for a few minutes you will already arrive at your destination. So there’s no big deal. And trust me, the real Ding Ding should have no air-con. Ask the Hong Kong locals, this might be the only thing Hong Kongers love about without an air-con in it. I always appreciate how the tram drivers put up with the heat in the drivers’ seat during summer time (temperate can rise up to 40 °C there). Big thump ups for their professionalism!
7. You can party there
Hong Kong Tramways offers open-top tramcar (the first generation of double-decker tramcars were open-top) booking and catering services if you want to book it for a special event. On some Saturday evenings, you might see party trams running through the city with party-goers having a great time on the top accompanied by disco music.
8. People are friendly
Maybe it’s personal, but I feel that people inside a Ding Ding are extremely friendly. They won’t elbow their way out or push you around to get squeezed in the tram. Everyone holds some kinds of special respect to Ding Ding. People get in line and wait patiently for their turn. There’s never any bad manners inside a tramcar. Back in those days where tickets were sold inside the tram, the gatekeepers of Ding Ding were known to be very friendly to the passengers, unlike the ones in a bus where disputes happened every day. It seems like Ding Ding has been carrying a friendly reputation throughout the years, and it keeps on!
What do you like about Hong Kong’s Ding Ding? Do you like it as much as I do?