"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hong Kong, A Report from the Field: Mass Transit

Hong Kong has a truly impressive mass transit system.  With a population density of 6300 people in a square kilometer (very, very roughly a third of a square mile), the city would come to gridlock if it hadn't one of the most organized and efficient systems of moving people in the world.

Hong Kong now belongs to China, if you recall.   The British gave back the Crown colony in 1997, much to the dismay of Hong Kong-ers.   Now it is a Special Administrative region of China, with China interfering and the people of Hong Kong staging protests on a fairly regular basis.

But, back to mass transit.

There are, of course, privately owned vehicles and there are taxis.

There are trolleys, or as they are called here, trams.  They run on tracks and are electrically powered.

They are everywhere.   And there are buses.

This is a trolley.

This is a topless bus.   There are regular buses, too.

There are the wonderful Star Ferries that transport people back and forth across Victoria Harbour.

Ferry employee in a sailor suit.

As well as other, faster ferries....

Much of the ground transportation is free for seniors, or at a reduced fare.

And then, there's the MTR, the Metropolitan Transit Railway, one of the most profitable railways in the world.  Since the MTR opened in 1997, the railway now has 135 miles of rail with 155 stations.

Prior to 1998, the airport at Hong Kong was Kai Tak on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour, close to the city's skyscrapers and mountains and extremely technically challenging to pilots.  The History Channel rated it as the 6th most dangerous airport in the world,not only because of its proximity to the tall buildings and other immovable objects, but because the runway jutted into the harbour.

From Wikimedia:  At the northern end of the runway, buildings rose up to six stories just across the road. The other three sides of the runway were surrounded by Victoria Harbour. The low altitude manoeuvre required to line up with the runway was so spectacular that some passengers claimed to have glimpsed the flickering of televisions through apartment windows along the final approach.

Boeing 747-467, Cathay Pacific Airways JP10362.jpg
Photo from Wikimedia Commons of the old Kai Tak airport in HK.

Then a new airport opened 19 miles from the city and fliers relaxed as much as fliers can relax.  I suspect the pilots relaxed a bit, too.

The MTR now carries many people back and forth, which is how three of us got from and back to the new Chek Lap Kok airport, or Hong Kong Airport.

I'd show you photos of the MTR if I could, but because I was inside a rail car, I can't.

Here's how we got back to the airport from Kowloon for our flight to Mongolia:

First, a free shuttle bus took us from a stop near our hotel in Kowloon to the MTR station.

MTR station.

Inside a large spotless terminal, we located the sign for our airlines, MIAT or Mongolian Civil Air Transport.  Remember, this is still the train station.

MIAT is the Mongolian airlines.

We checked in at the ticket counter, just as if we were at the airport, but without all the hassle and long lines.

That's Cap at the counter and my unmistakable orange-striped suitcase on the baggage belt.   Yes!   You get rid of your checked baggage at the MTR station!

Then, to the train platform.

No one is going to fall or get bumped off the platform like on some US subway systems.   The train arrives,stops at EXACTLY the right spot, the glass doors open, and you board.   Then, choose your seat for the 25 minute ride.   Because we were at the end of the line, the car was empty.

My seat had both AC and USB hook ups.   And, there are quiet cars!   No beeping chiming, singing ringing cell phones.

In a restroom at the airport.   THIS is the way stall locks should be.  Hefty and dependable, not one of those flimsy things that get knocked off.

A crowded shuttle bus takes you to the satellite building where your gate is located.   (An aside:   I once landed in Los Angeles and thought we were going to taxi to San Francisco.)

Past docked airplanes with some pretty cool paint jobs....

Siam Airlines

Dragon Air and the tail of Mongolian airlines.

Then. more long walks through duty free and regular shops, along long concourses, and finally...

Wait for it....

There it is!

Cap, Patti, and the wonderful wheelchair lady who got Patti through the endless miles of getting to the gate.

Settling in on MIAT airlines in what seemed to be a new Boeing 737.

And off we go...

...on the flying horses of MIAT.   


  1. When Cap first mentioned that China was more advanced than the U.S. in many ways, I didn't want to believe it. I was thrown for a loop. The more that Cap and now you share on your blogs, I'm thinking differently. I live in my little world and am mostly unaware of the big picture.

    Thank you for sharing this part of your traveling adventure.

    Hi to Cap and Patti.

  2. Welcome to Mongolia .. So nice to have you along for the ride and to be sharing all of this with you. We are happy you enjoyed lunch on our Mongolian Airlines flight up from Hong Kong we also enjoyed ours. I had beef and Patti had the chicken you enjoyed. THANKS FOR your (well 80% of it) desert. THANKS ALSO for pointing out to me the late afternoon setting sun on the right wing tip. It made for phenomenal photos.

    By the way both Patti and I had our passports examined closely and very officially stamped when we entered. How on earth did you miss this. You said there was no passport control.

    Great job. Good work on your part this past several days. It will be fun to see your impressions in the upcoming days. Joy from Patti and Cap ..

    1. This comment was meant to show up in the above post. Maybe I should do a copy and paste. So much fun to see your ' take ' on Hong Kong ..

      Smiles from Patti and Cap ..