Friday, October 15, 2010

Taxis, Buses, Trains and Boats

For those of you who live in major cities, negotiating the different transit systems wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary, but for me it is a bit on the scary side.  There are three major ways of getting around Hong Kong if you don't own a car.  You always have to walk part of the way, either to get out of your building, ( in our case about a block), or to the bus stop, or to a MTR or KCR station.  Quit often you need to take one or two of a couple of combinations.  If you're feeling rich you can take a taxi all the way which l love, but the price is definitely cheaper on the bus or train.
Thanks to Jocelyn for getting some pics for me as l'm not
very mobile right now.
There are around 18,000 taxis here so they are relatively easy to flag down except of course when its raining, or like today.  There are red ones and green ones.  The red ones go mostly around Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island.  The green ones only go to the New Territories and are not allowed to pick up passengers in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island.    If you want to put stuff in the trunk you pay an extra $5.(they sometimes don't ask for it)  If your taxi has to go through one of the major tunnels you have to pay the toll also.  The licence plate will tell you if it will take 4 or 5 passengers.  I have found that lots of the drivers don't know the English words for the malls so if you don't know the Chinese name tell them to go to the MTR station, if one is attached to the mall.  For example lots won't know Festival Walk (even though that's the name on the outside)   but will know Kowloon Tong MTR so that will get you there. Last Sat. when we were going out to the Gold Coast we got in the taxi and both of us realized we had never gone out to the Gold Coast only came back from it, and wouldn't you know it the driver didn't know where we wanted to go. We tried a few different names for the area and he said OK and off we went.  Anyway we weren't too sure he really knew so l phoned Ryan and he talked to the driver and got him on the right road and we made it fine.  Later one of the teachers, who also came for supper, and speaks Cantonese, got the desk guy in Ryan's tower to write it out in Chinese for us along with the desk phone number so now we're set for there.  You feel so helpless when you can't communicate and they also feel bad.  He kept apologizing all the way out there but neither one of us knew what the other was saying except of the word sorry!!  I need to learn to say left, right and straight ahead in Chinese, not that l always know exactly where we are or where we should be! Today Jocelyn went with me to find the chiropractors office and when we were done it was around 4 pm.  Anyway here we were, her with a baby and me that could barely walk, and do you think we could get a taxi? No Way!  We finally had to find a bus and that's another long story, but we made it home eventually.
Heading home from the chiropractors 

I went for my first train excursion this week.  Some of the ladies from the church invited me to go with them out to Sai Kung to visit a plant nursery, but l had to get to Festival Walk and take a train to Tai Po and then meet one of the woman at Starbucks in the station, where we would meet the other woman and go in their car.  Do you see how nothing is simple here. Thanks goodness Jocelyn came with me!  I could have taken a taxi all the way to Tai Po but it would have cost almost $200 HK.  I actually kind of enjoy the trains but the stations are confusing until you've done it some.  You need to know which direction you want to go and make sure you're not going in the opposite way and when the station is an interchange one there are many ways to go!!  The KCR is the Kowloon-Canton Railway and has two lines.  I think this is the one we took out to Ryan's when he lived in the New Territories. They are fairly cheap and fast, but you'd better get on and off fast to or you'll be left behind!  The MTR Mass Transit Railway is the the underground and costs more than the KCR.  The octopus card is the best thing to use for the transit systems.  When you pass through the turnstile, the card is encoded with the station identification and time.  At the other end, the exit turnstile  reads where you came from, the time you bought the ticket and how much you paid.  If you don't have enough $ on your card it will let you through and then you have to go to the counter to make up the difference.  You use your Octopus card for lots of things like buses, trains, ferry, pop, food, some restaurants.The other day l was buying groceries and l didn't have the correct change, so l paid the large portion with cash and the rest with Octopus.(at the clerks suggestion)  You just plunk your wallet or purse on the pad and it reads it and tells you how much $ is left on the card.  I have a key chain on my purse, and you can get them in watches too.

 TST to catch the Star Ferry over to the island.

There are about a million buses here.  Most of the big ones are double decker's, and how they wheel them around some of the tight traffic and narrow winding roads is amazing to see.  It's fun to sit up top right at the front, especially on the narrow mountain roads.  The other day Jocelyn and l took one to the ferry terminal to go over to the island, and it was really packed at 8:30 in the morning.  It's cheaper than a taxi, and if you're bored you can watch the tv screens  they have.  Not much on them though.  The buses going to the airport have luggage racks in them so that is convenient.  Then there are the mini buses.  They are interesting to ride in.  They only take 16 people and if there are two of you wanting on and there is only one seat left you are out of luck.  There are two types.  Red and Green again.  Red buses have no bells to ring when you want to get off so you have to tell him when, and of course they don't speak English!!  You need to yell Lay-do m-goi. (here please) They have no designated stops and you flag them down wherever. I haven't taken a red bus yet because its pretty Chinese and the fare is sort of iffy and can change if its raining.  The green ones are more stable and have designated routes and stops.  You can also use your octopus card or change but it has to be the correct amount.
Star Ferry - neat old boats!
Coming from HK Island to Kowloon side
Then there are the ferries.  I love the ferries. There are ferries going in every direction here, but the Star Ferry is the most well known.  It used to be the only way of getting across to the island before the tunnels were built.  I can't imagine the amount of people who used to ride these.  They are  wooden with diesel engines and really neat to ride in and the views going across the water with all the ships and boats are really wonderful.  At night the lights from all the magnificent buildings is really amazing, especially going from Kowloon to Central.  Sometimes just getting into your car and going to the Co-op is so much easier but I wouldn't have wanted to miss this, as intimidating as it seems sometime.
Rachel came to visit for a few hours while Jocelyn subbed.  She was helping me do the laundry and had a great time putting all the shoes  in the basket.  She has a sticker on the side of her face.  Trust you will all have safe trips
as you travel, in whatever form it takes.

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