There were some excellent comments on The Great Adventure so I thought I should set the record straight on transport in HK.
Hong Kong has a first-rate Mass Transit Railway system. I never hesitate to jump on the MTR. There seems to be a growing trend to whinge about it. Compared to London’s underground however this is a cheap, efficient and modern system. I rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for a train. Above all I regard this as the safest means of public transport.
Taxis are pot luck. There are some excellent taxi drivers and there are some downright awful ones. They do not earn a lot and so many work a double shift. If you get someone at the end of a sixteen hour shift it can be scary as they tend to nod off. Tell them a few jokes to keep them awake. “A Cantonese, a Mainlander and a Macanese go into a bar….” You know the sort of thing.
Some know their way around extremely well. Some know less than I do. Passengers expect to get by not just in Cantonese but Mandarin and English. Quite a few of the taxi drivers have more than passable English. Some can grunt in several languages and a few are just miserable old gits who should never be in a customer-facing job. They are good value for money compared with London. Never underestimate a taxi driver. It could be Fred Housego.
The buses come in varying shapes and sizes. The most dangerous are the green and red tops. These are mini-buses that seem to be driven by would-be F1 drivers. Sadly their driving skills are not up to the same standard. Many should never have been given a PSV licence. I avoid these like the Ebola virus. If I ever decide that I want to be driven into oblivion, Thelma and Louise style, then I know how to go about it. Get on a green top and tell the driver to ‘go for it’.
And then there are the big buses. Mrs. Ha claims that a half-brother of hers (I don’t know what the other half was) was a bus driver. Sadly he was partially sighted. Miraculously he seems to have avoided wiping out his passengers. My guess is that his eyesight was so bad that he probably drove at a snail’s pace. This has convinced me that there is no sight test for bus drivers. Or it may go something along the lines of:
“Can you see that bus, ah Wong?”
“You mean that red blob over there?”
“Good enough. Off you go. Be careful out there. There are a lot of crazy sighted people about.”
My fundamental gripe about the buses is their redundancy. They never go where I want to go when I want to go. Sai Kung to Nam Sang Wai isn’t a regular route although it should be. “Can we be there for sun up, driver?” is likely to get you short shrift. A lot of the buses have seen better days and have exhaust systems on a par with a herd of Friesians. The clue is the Victoria Regina crest on the side. (I checked very, very carefully that the spellchecker wasn’t going to embarrass me there – we don’t want The Regina Monologues. No Sex please, we’re British.)
There are some nice bright, shiny red ones about. These are allegedly Eco-friendly, whoever Eco is. I think his first name is Umberto.
You may note that these are proper Chinese buses with the writing going the ‘wrong way’.
And that just leaves the trams. These are fun if you wish to play sardines and are no more than 4′ 6″ tall. If like me you are 6′ 4″ tall you will spend the entire journey bent double. They have turnstiles like the old football stadium ones. Getting on at the back is no guarantee that you will be able to get off at the front. You will have to spear-tackle 40 or 50 old ladies with shopping trolleys to do so. This is frowned upon in polite circles. Their main attraction is their cost. You can probably go the equivalent of a full circumnavigation of the equator for about five quid. When I searched my catalogue of images for a HK Tram I discovered to my amusement that the only image with the keyword tram was this one:
Which just goes to show that the system isn’t perfect. This is in fact as you can clearly see a cross-section of a bus driver’s brain folded out to create a Rohrschach test. If you look at it and shout ‘BUS!’ then you have passed the test and you get a PSV licence.
I imagine by now that you feel reasonably well-equipped to answer any question life may throw at you about public transport in HK.
Many of you however may still be wondering what happened to the M washing machine. Well I am pleased to tell you that the saga is about to reach a conclusion. M have agreed to take the 35th machine away and give Mrs. Ha her (= my) money back. It will probably be recycled as a green-top minibus. And we shall doubtless end up with another Z. Isn’t life grand? Who would have thought buying a washing machine could be so much fun.