A tram tour and exhibition that takes you back a century will make a perfect Christmas outing for family and friends.
The TramOramic Tour is one of the top things to do in Hong Kong for anyone who wants to get to know the territory better, as the tramway is a living, evolving connection between Hong Kong’s colorful history and modern culture.
Hop aboard a 1920s-style open-top tram – the only one of its kind in the city – at Western Market Terminus in Sheung Wan and you’ll encounter bustling streets, ultra-modern cityscapes and attractions galore.
But looking at modern cities and imagining life a hundred years ago is not enough to “bring you back to a century ago.”
At the Ding Ding Christmas Exhibition at The East, five minutes’ walk from Wan Chai station along the TramOramic Tour, Alan Cheung Shun-kwong proudly displays one of his collector’s items, the Hong Kong Antique Postcard Series – Wan Chai (2018).
The postcards show multiple photographs of the same spot – modern Wan Chai on the left and photos of the same site from the 1950s to the 1970s on the right, capturing trams during those moments in time.
“Hong Kong’s trams are living antiques and an irreplaceable part of local cultural heritage,” said Cheung, who is also president of the Hong Kong Collectors Society.
The tram enthusiast has more than 1,200 local tram-related items, but he didn’t grow up loving them. The love affair began when he found a postcard from 1904 – the year Hong Kong’s trams started operating – in a second-hand shop 30 years ago.
“I was initially drawn to the European streetscape and tram in the picture. When I looked closer, I found it was a picture of Alexandra House in Central and a first generation tram,” said Cheung. “In that moment, I discovered the beauty of trams.”
The most interesting part of another exhibit, Hong Kong Tramway’s Monthly Tram Tickets (1954 & 1974), is that the price remained HK$18 for two decades, while the average salary of office workers in Hong Kong rose from below HK$100 to about HK$1,000. Clearly, taking trams has gone from a luxury to something ordinary people can do.
Nowadays, the tram is the cheapest public transport in Hong Kong at HK$2.60 per trip and makes a profit only from advertisements.
Cheung sees Hong Kong Tramway as giving back to society and contributing to the preservation of Hong Kong culture.
“Trams are really traditional. The only changes in 115 years have been the speed and some trams now having LED route boards. The tracks and routes have remained unchanged,” said Cheung.
The exhibition also presents Hong Kong Tramways’ Tram Ticket with Special Number #1111 and #5555, which were bought from a girl who collected tram tickets as a hobby. “In an age of information scarcity, when there were no smartphones to play with, collecting tickets became a form of entertainment,” Cheung said.
Cheung’s other hobby is, of course, taking trams, especially the Tram #120, his favorite generation, of which there are only five left.
The only engine shown in the exhibition is Hong Kong Tramway’s “Dick, Kerr” Controller, a traditional English-style tram’s speed controller that is only used in eight out of 165 trams in Hong Kong, including Tram #120, Antique Party Trams and the tram used in the TramOramic Tour.
From the outside, the exhibition hall looks like a tourist train. It is festooned with dazzling lights and Christmas decorations, making it a popular Christmas destination for everybody to spend time with family and friends while seeing the rare collection of antique and modern treasures of Hong Kong’s trams.
The Ding Ding Christmas Exhibition will run until January 2 next year. Throughout December, there will also be workshops teaching how to make Christmas wreaths and baked Alaskas, as well as building and painting paper trams. Santa Claus will make an appearance on the afternoon of December 25.
(This article was published at The Standard on December 6 2019: Weekend Glitz: Christmas top trams )