Over the years I’ve had my fair share of journeys around the world, not only on holiday but also for work. I’ve travelled by plane, helicopter, bike, car and ship but none compare to the short journey across Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong in a Star Ferries ferry.
The ferries are just so iconic in their green and white livery; the hustle and bustle at the ferry terminal is something you have to experience, if you ever visit Hong Kong.
The Star Ferry, or The “Star” Ferry Company, is a passenger ferry service operator and tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Its principal routes carry passengers across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It was founded in 1888 as the Kowloon Ferry Company, adopting its present name in 1898.
The fleet of twelve ferries currently operates two routes (four prior to April 1, 2011) across the harbour, carrying over 70,000 passengers a day, or 26 million a year. Even though the harbour is crossed by railway and road tunnels, the Star Ferry continues to provide an inexpensive mode of harbour crossing. The company’s main route runs between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui.
In February 2009 the short journey across the harbour was rated first in the “Top 10 Most Exciting Ferry Rides” poll by the Society of American Travel Writers.
Until the opening of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1972, the Star Ferry remained the main means of public transportation between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon side. On 11 November 2006, the end of an era was marked when the third generation pier in Central, the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, ended its mission, along with the big clock tower. The pier was demolished to make way for reclamation, amidst great controversy and important protests.
Using the Star Ferry is a leisurely 15-minute ride across Victoria Harbour. The last time I checked it was about HK$3 (~25 pence UK, 40 cents US weekend & public holidays). Locals still use the ferries routinely. (Weekday adult upper deck fare: HK$2.50). The great thing about the ferries is that there’s one just about every 5 or 10 minutes, operating from early in the morning till a bit after 11 o’clock at night, so you don’t have to wait long.
Pictured above is the Celestial Star, built about1956 and is the oldest Star Ferry running today. It has a capacity for 576 passengers (I’m not kidding). However, since the Central Star Ferry Pier was moved from its old pier next to City Hall to the new location outside the International Finance Centre, passenger numbers have fallen drastically to mainly tourists and a small number of commuters.
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