Saturday, December 30, 2006

Riding the Star Ferry

On my first Sunday in Hong Kong, back in November 1995, I boarded a Star Ferry from the Tsim Sha Tsui Terminal on the Kowloon side heading to Victoria Island. It wasn’t a very long crossing but it had the romance of years of history behind it. There was something about the wooden seats with their thick coats of brown paint, the red fire buckets, the spray spattered windows and the crew in their church-basement HMS Pinafore sailor suits that caught my fancy, That crossing and the slightly rundown Central Terminal with its harbour-dominating clock tower were uniquely Hong Kong. And the square in front of the terminal filled with hundreds of Phillipina maids on their one day off in seven, chirping away in Tagalog like flocks of released birds, was a sight I knew I would not see anywhere else in the world.

The wooden seats, the fire buckets, the crew and Kowloon terminal haven’t changed in the past 11 years. And this past Christmas Day many of the maids seemed to be enjoying an additional day-off – including one enterprising woman who had set herself up on a bench near St John’s Cathedral doing pedicures for a line of chattering women. Sadly they no longer congregate en masse in front of the Central terminal but are scattered – a certain loss of community – in parks around the area, In a controversial move the Government has boarded up the square, torn down the old terminal, destroyed the Clock Tower – to belated howls of protest – and moved everything to a brand new Disneyfied terminal a good 10 minute walk from Central. Apparently the land is needed for a new highway – just what Central doesn’t need.

Here are few pictures of our trip over to Kowloon on December 26.

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