Time for a post about Hong Kong that isn’t about trains!
The Star Ferry is something that is every tourists todo list: it gives you a fantastic view of Victoria Harbour, it costs stuff all, and is located right in the middle of where all of the other tourist locations. If you have been to Hong Kong before and think the Star Ferry journey is shorter than last time: you are probably correct. In 2006 the ferry pier at Central was demolished to make way for land reclamation, replaced by a new pier around 300 meters closer to Kowloon. As of 2010 the reclaimed land is still being prepared for development.
Another tourist trap at the Star Ferry pier was rickshaw rides: since the move passing trade has died off, and the owners have put their rickshaws up for sale.
The Star Ferry operates over four routes, but the busiest and most well known is the Central – Tsim Sha Tsui run, it also being the shortest, and the cheapest. The ferry pier is located at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula, right in the middle of the Tsim Sha Tsui tourist traps. When I visited Hong Kong in 1999 the majority of the tall buildings seen here did not exist: the area was beneath the flight path to Kai Tak Airport.
The 108 storey tall International Commerce Centre on the West Kowloon Reclamation did not exist either: a decade ago the site was just dirt, and a decade before that it was water. Such is the pace of land reclamation in Hong Kong.
The other Star Ferry piers are at Wan Chai and Hung Hom: along with the Central and Tsim Sha Tsui piers they form an ‘X’ shape across the harbour. The Star Ferry website has more details about the other routes.
The Star Ferry company also runs a tourist cruise on the harbour, using the older ferry ‘Shining Star’ that was converted back to the original open deck configuration. I haven’t done the sums, if you do the Central – Tsim Sha Tsui – Wan Chai – Hung Hom – Central routes in turn, you cover about the same area, and for a lower cost.
The ferries themselves are double deck, but only the Central -Tsim Sha Tsui route gives you a choice: the quieter route only have the top deck open to passengers. Of course, the lower deck is the more interesting one: I’m amazed I had never travelled on in on my previous visits to Hong Kong.
The ferries are double ended, with a wheelhouse at each end.
I’ll end with a final tip: the Central – Hung Hom route is the longest, it is also the least useful for a tourist: the pier is right in the middle of a housing estate with only a bus terminal as onward transport. If you happen to catch it, your best option is to catch another ferry right out of there!