One Logo – Two Languages

For a company that operates in Hong Kong, where both Chinese and English are official languages, it is important to have a corporate brand that looks just as good in both. Here are two corporate logos that achieve this in an exceedingly clever way.

The first is for the ‘CLP Group’ – once known as ‘China Light and Power’. The central device of the logo is the – the Chinese character for ‘China’ – with is composed of the English characters of ‘C’ ‘L’ and ‘P’.

CLP Group logo

The other is for ‘Kowloon Motor Bus’, also known as ‘KMB’. The large ‘K’ device in the logo represents the ‘K’ of the English company name, while at the same time resembling – part of ‘九龍’, the Chinese name for Kowloon.

Kowloon Motor Bus logo

Both logos blew my mind when I first discovered their hidden meanings!

Further reading

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Laundry day in Hong Kong

I doesn’t matter where you live in Hong Kong, but finding somewhere to dry your laundry usually involves an open window.

You could be living in a 1960s apartment block.

Laundry day in Hong Kong

Or a more modern Housing Authority complex.

Typical Housing Authority apartment tower

Or even in a fancy complex with your own swimming pool.

Laundry day in Hong Kong

Whatever it is, just don’t hang your washing up on the neighbourhood fences!

No hanging up your washing here!

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Lost in translation while navigating the MTR

Navigating the Mass Transit Railway network is Hong Kong is pretty easy – the map is easy to read, the signage is in both Chinese and English, and the audio announcements are repeated in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. So how did my dad and I managed to get confused when getting from A to B?

MTR network map (2013)

We had just spent the day out sightseeing, and were on our way to meet my cousin for dinner at a restaurant in Causeway Bay, having arranged to meet outside a specific exit from the MTR station.

After changing to an Island Line train headed west, my dad said “we’ll jump out at [a name I had never head of]“. I had to rack my brain for quite a while, trying to think of a MTR station by that name, but got nowhere, so I asked him to point out the station on the map.

“Causeway Bay” was the station – which sounded nothing like the name “Tung Lo Wan” he had been saying a moment before.

The reason for the confusion is how locations in Hong Kong receive their English names – places with obvious English names (such as “Causeway Bay”) also have obviously Chinese names (in this case “銅鑼灣” which is transliterated as “Tung Lo Wan”) which sound different, while other places just use the transliterated Chinese name as their English one (for example, “Tsim Sha Tsui”) so they sound the same in both languages.

With my dad being a native Cantonese speaker he used the Chinese name, while I went for the English one, which in the case of Causeway Bay sound nothing alike!

Hong Kong tram on the move in Causeway Bay

A footnote on literal translations

Transliteration is a process where Chinese characters are turned into something pronounceable by non-Chinese speakers, while translation makes the ideas of the Chinese text understandable to outsiders.

When each character of “銅鑼灣” is translated literally, “Tung Lo Wan” (the Chinese name for Causeway Bay) ends up as “Copper Gong Bay”. A number of people have taking this to the extreme and produced an entire MTR network map where the station names are translated literally – ‘Lost in Mong Kok‘ did a version in 2011, as did blogger Justin Moe in 2014.

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The ‘secret’ Chinese restaurant menu

When westerners visit Chinese restaurants, the idea of a ‘secret’ menu that only Chinese people get is a common one – and on my last visit to Hong Kong I finally encountered one, on the popular tourist island of Cheung Chau.

Sampans moored to the seawall at Cheung Chau

After wandering along the waterfront, we chose one of the many restaurants and sat down at our table. My Dad and my extended family all took the Chinese menus, while myself and the rest of my family from Australia took the English version.

Seafood restaurants lining the waterfront in Cheung Chau

What ensued was what normally happens my family goes out to eat at Chinese restaurant back in Australia – my Dad points out something on the Chinese menu, the rest of us can’t find it on the English menu, so I ask him to point it out, we finally find it, and then repeat for every other dish. However this time there was a difference – the two menus had different prices on them!

When it finally came time to order, my Dad ended up having the following discussion with the waiter – in Cantonese of course:

  • Dad: So we’ll have dishes [X], [Y] and [Z].
  • Waiter: Okay then.
  • Dad: And by the way, I noticed that the prices on the English menu were higher.
  • Waiter: Ah, yes, the servings for the English menu are bigger, that’s why they’re different.
  • Dad: I don’t care what size they are, just don’t charge me the higher price!
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Traversers and turntables at Hung Hom station

Hung Hom station is the southern terminus of the Kowloon Canton Railway, which also makes it the final destination of the ‘Intercity Through Trains’ which link Hong Kong to China.

China Railways electric locomotive SS8 0141 leads a consist of type 25T carriages

The majority of these services are made up of a single locomotive hauling a rake of carriages behind, which requires the locomotive to be moved to the other end of the train for the return journey.

Unlike most railway stations that provided a headshunt and run-around loop to enable this movement, the Hung Hom station site is very constrained, resulting in a series of dead end platforms with no additional tracks between them.

Hung Hom station track diagram

To work around the space constraints, when the current station opened in 1975 a traverser was installed to move locomotives sideways between adjacent tracks, releasing them from behind the carriages sitting in the platforms.

A turntable was also installed in the station yard to enable single ended locomotives to be turned around, placing the drivers cab facing the direction of travel.

This photo from the 1970s shows the turntable was located to the east of the locomotive shed near the ferry pier, with it remaining in place until at least 2008, as this photo of KCR locomotive #53 shows. With the introduction of locomotives with a cab at each end on most trains, the turntable was removed and today the site is occupied by the ‘Metropolis’ development.

As for the traverser, it is still in use today, though shortened to only serve platforms 5 through 7. Platforms 1 through 4 were modified back in 2004 when the East Rail line was extended south to East Tsim Sha Tsui Station, which converted platforms 2 and 3 into through platform.

Viewing the traverser is difficult, due to the high steel fence separating the secured international platforms from those used by normal MTR services. However from the south end of platform 4, the end of traverser can just be seen – here a China Railways SS8 electric locomotive is being moved sideways from the end of platform 5.

This photo by Steve McEvoy shows the traverser itself, viewed from inside the operating pit that it moves along.

Traverser at Hung Hom station (Steve McEvoy photo)

Above photo by Steve McEvoy

KCR staff nicknamed the traverser Deep Fried Crab (油炸蟹) with the name coming from its resemblance to the food item: the traverser deck being the shell, and the wheels being the crab legs.

Train terms

  • Traversers are a bridge that move sideways, transporting a rail vehicle sideways from one track to another.
  • Turntables spin around on the spot, allowing a locomotive to be turned around, or placed onto a track leading on an angle.
  • Run around loops allow a locomotive to move around a set of carriages, and then couple up to the other end.
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