I was recently invited on a sightseeing trip of a very different style – not on a bus or boat, but on a tram. Hong Kong Tramways has just launched the TramOramic Tour, which is a 1-hour sightseeing journey aboard a unique 1920s style tram with authentic tales of local life.
A few days ago I had seen the tram stop in Happy Valley and I was curious to find out more – so I was very happy to be treated to a free trip, together with Patrick and Lina. We picked a grey and cloudy Saturday and decided to start the trip from the Causeway Bay terminus and end at Sheung Wan. There are three journeys each way, per day – best to check the website for the accurate departure times.
We waited next to the Olympic footbridge on Leighton Road (next to the Regal Hotel) for the tram to arrive. Once it had stopped and the passengers departed, a very friendly tram attendant greeted us. We had already our ticket vouchers, but in case you did not have time to purchase tickets in advance (here is the link to the website, tickets are 150HKD for adults and 90 HKD for kids), the tram attendant can also sell you tickets – provided there is still space on the tram.
The TramOramic Tram is a beautiful restored 1920s tramcar with an open top upper deck and a vintage cabin lower deck. It has capacity for 36 passengers – and that’s the limit. If all seats are taken, you cannot join – because you will not be able to listen to the stories about Hong Kong in eight languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish and Russian) via your headset.
The team had worked with Cheng Po Hung, an historian of Hong Kong, Alan Cheung, one of the most prominent collectors of Hong Kong, and the HK Tram Friends Association to write a very qualitative audio guided tour through the most vibrant parts of Hong Kong. Throughout the journey you can listen and learn about the controversy of the Bank of China, the red light meal of the tram drivers, the seven generations of trams, the poor man’s night club, the meaning of Happy Valley, the Deung Deung candies – and I have to say it is very enlightening for someone who is visiting Hong Kong for the first time.
We travelled from Causeway Bay to Happy Valley, back to Wan Chai and then through Admiralty, Central and Sheung Wan. I love travelling on the tram, and this time it was even better as we did not have to stop and wait for passengers to embark and disembark – and there was no shuffling, stepping on toes or people pushing you to move aside, as can happen in the rush hour. It was much more comfortable and enjoyable.
I also liked the unobstructed views from the top deck – it was the first time that I could comfortably see the full-scale of the open Happy Valley race course or the sheer size of the cemetery next to it.
The one-hour journey passed very quickly and was very enjoyable – despite the grey weather and the rain clouds hoovering above us. It was comfortable and fun to see the city from a different perspective and to listen to authentic tales of local life and tram history.
I would definitely recommend this journey to anyone visiting Hong Kong for the first, second or third time – it is a lovely ride on a very beautifully restored tram.
Just be mindful that if you have been to Hong Kong a few times, or did some reading beforehand, you will be familiar with most of the stories and insights that you hear on board this tram – they are all quite standard/obvious ones, such as that different banks issue different bank notes, the tram used to run along the shoreline of the Victoria harbour, the HSBC building used to be the most expensive building when it was built (and with a much better feng shui than the Bank of China building), a pawn shop’s logo is a bat holding a coin etc.
A final tip: keep the golden TramOramic Tour ticket you received, it allows you to ride on the normal doubledecker tram for the following two days.