Best Hong Kong Rides

Hong Kong is one of the world’s great cities and should be on everyone’s must visit list. Home to over six million people, it truly is a city that never sleeps.

For the tourist, there is something to suit all tastes. From top class hotels to cheap backpacker accommodation, from superb restaurants offering the world’s finest cuisine to back street food stalls, and from exclusive shops to street markets, Hong Kong has it all. And if that’s not enough to whet the appetite, then the city skyline serves as a magnificent ocean backdrop to panoramic ocean vistas. Throw in some historic buildings and temples, a couple of exciting theme parks and a dazzling variety of nightlife, and you have the complete vacation experience.

But for me, there are a few rides that the visitor to Hong Kong must try before leaving this great city.

Star Ferry

The Star Ferry has to be one of Hong Kong’s most iconic symbols and, in 2009, was named as one of the world's top ten most exciting ferry rides by the Society of American Travel Writers. Plying between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui over 100 years, the Star Ferry carries passengers across the harbour quickly and cheaply. And as you relax while the harbour waters lap around the ferry, you get a magnificent view of Hong Kong’s waterfront and mountains beyond.

Land reclamation has seen the Hong Kong Island terminal moved in recent years making the journey shorter but the move has cost the Star Ferry Company dearly as passenger numbers have dropped considerably. Nowadays, the Company depends heavilyly on tourists.

Peak Tram

Coming into service in 1888, the Peak tram is a funicular railway that carries passengers from Hong Kong’s lower levels up to Victoria Peak. The track is 1.4km long and climbs around 400 metres, which makes for a spectacular, and for some slightly scary, ride. Altogether there are six stations, but ou board the tram at the lower terminus at Garden Road (be prepared for a considerable wait because the queue can get quite lengthy).

The tram goes up the single track and passes the tram coming down the hill at the passing loop between the second and third stations. And once you reach the top, there are the shops and restaurants of the Peak Terminal, not to mention the most spectacular views of Hong Kong and Kowloon that it’s possible to get.

Hong Kong Tramways

Tramways is one of Hong Kong’s earliest public transport systems and was established in 1904. The all-electric trams run along the northern part of Hong Kong Island from Shaukeiwan in the east to Kennedy Town in the west, with a loop that takes in Happy Valley. Altogether there are 118 stops along the 30km of line. All trams are double-deckers and are powered through an overhead electric cable system.

If you travel the full length of the system you will get a wonderful ride through many of the Island’s most well known districts. As a tourist, you will probably find yourself in Causeway Bay at some time, so hop on a tram to Western Market (Sheung Wan). The trip will take you through Wanchai, Central (where you will pass the headquarters of the major banks – Bank of China, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and the Standard Chartered and so on) and on to Western Market. Getting off here, you can visit the old market building, which now houses shops and restaurants. But, no matter where you get on or off, the tram is a wonderful ride and a great, good value way to see Hong Kong Island.

Bus to Stanley

One of Hong Kong’s most scenic and exciting bus rides is the trip from Central to Stanley. There are four buses to choose from: 6, 6A, 6X and 260. Of these, the 6A goes via Western District while the 6X and 260 go through the Aberdeen Tunnel. The 6, however, goes up through Wong Nai Chong Gap and skirts the Tai Tam Country Park before descending to the coast road from Repulse Bay to Stanley.

For views, the 6 is the bus to take. But from Repulse Bay, where the four routes converge, the excitement begins. The road is narrow and winding with trees edging a great deal of the road. The drivers guide their buses at seemingly breakneck speed so close to the trees that you will occasionally flinch, especially if you are sitting on the top deck at the front.

If you can bear to keep your eyes open, you will see some fine scenery and come to realise that Hong Kong is not all wall-to-wall concrete. And, at journey’s end, you can enjoy bargain hunting at Stanley Market or the culinary delights of the bars and restaurants that throng the beachfront.

Public Light Bus

To experience real Hong Kong life, you have to try a Public Light Bus (PLB). Licensed to carry 16 passengers, there are two types of PLB. The green PLBs operate to a timetable on fixed routes and fares. The red ones are unregulated and can fix their own fares and routes; these are the PLBs to try – if you have the nerve.

PLBs stop on request but the drivers, who have often hired the bus for the day, don’t like to be kept waiting so, after you’ve hailed one, move to a spare seat quickly and be prepared to hold tight. The drivers weave in and out of traffic as fast as they can and cut across to the side of the road to let off passengers or if they see a potential passenger. Call the driver to let you off when you reach your destination – or when you can’t take any more excitement.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

Opened November 2006, the Ngong Ping 360 is a spectacular 25-minute cable car ride through the mountainous interior of Lantau Island that takes you to Ngong Ping. Your journey begins at Tung Chung (easily reached via the Tung Chung Line of Hong Kong’s excellent underground railway, the MTR), where you will find the terminus.  The queues can get quite long but they move quickly so don’t be put off. The regular cabins are perfectly adequate, but you can pay extra and take a Crystal Cabin, which has a clear floor to give you an even better view.

The ride takes you up into Lantau’s mountains, offering spectacular views of Chek Lap Kok Airport and the surrounding countryside. It’s almost possible to forget that you are in overcrowded Hong Kong. Journey’s end is at Ngong Ping, now developed as a tourist area with shops and restaurants, and home to the Huge Tian Tan Buddha. You will need most of the day, but the experience is well worth the time.

A great city

Hong Kong is a unique city that you will never forget. These rides are only a few of the attractions that you should try to get the most from your visit.

On a final note, I have not mentioned fares simply because they change with time and details would therefore be unreliable.