Public transport in Hong Kong is truly the most efficient and the best way to get around. Except: when you get on the wrong bus.
I have lived in the same apartment for close to 5 years. I have travelled countless times by bus and mini-bus. I have it all worked out. I know the bus numbers, and where they all go.
The other day I saw quite the odd thing. I had decided that morning to make up for several days of unhealthy eating and get myself to the gym. As I stood waiting, along came a bus, but the familiar number I had caught for years had an additional “P” after it. “A new route“, I thought with interest. Thinking the bus couldn’t possibly deviate far from the path of the “P” free version, on I hop.
Next thing I know, the bus is going off the Island and straight into the central tunnel. Anyone unfortunate enough to travel through Hong Kong’s central tunnel at any time of the day or night will agree it’s a nightmare. At peak hour, it’s an abomination. Furiously pressing the stop button to avoid the “Tunnel of the Damned” it was apparent there was no stop to get off before the bus entered the darkness. Into the abyss I went, popping out the other side what seemed like some days later. Being reasonably intelligent, I got off at the first stop. For my next trick, I tried to get on a bus going the other way, back onto the Island. No problem, it was just myself and 3 million other people travelling that morning. By the time I got to the gym, it was 1½ hours after I had left home for the 10 minute trip.
It doesn’t end there. The very next day I decide it was much safer to stay in Mid-Levels and so was heading to my favourite coffee shop. There out front was our local councillor, spruiking for re-election. Being a civic-minded citizen, I took his pamphlet. Settled in with a coffee, I decided to read the flyer he had given me, rather than use it as a coaster. There it was, mocking me. Number 1 on his list of achievements: “Successful introduction of the 103 “P” bus service, bypassing Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay and going directly to Kowloon”. Here was the man responsible for stealing 1 1/2 hours from me.
You might think I was partially responsible, having been the one who actually got on the bus of misery, but I didn’t see it that way. Luckily for him, my civic mindedness hadn’t quite translated to my registering to vote. I will be fixing that.
But really, the public transport system in Hong Kong is incredibly organized. Millions of people each day use the trains, buses, mini-buses, taxis, ferries, and trams. That’s an enormous volume of people efficiently moved about each day. That I was able to visit, however unintentionally, Kowloon and get back onto the Island in less than two hours, through probably the most congested tunnel on earth, and in peak hour, is remarkable.
I really should grab that councillor, hustle him on the “103 P” bus and show him.