Star FerryVoyage over Still Waters
In spite of the change in setting, my fondness for these creaky boats imbued with the aroma of salt and fuel endures.
The iconic Star Ferry carries around 70,000 passengers a day from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. In Cantonese, 香港, or Hong Kong, means ‘Fragrant Harbour’, and this body of water is one of the city’s most obvious attractions. Growing up here, it is easy to take the ferry for granted, dismissing it as a tourist trap. When a journey on the slowest mode of transport in one of the world’s fastest cities becomes unavoidable, however, not even the most jaded can deny the absolute beauty that unfolds before them. The realisation that you are not too cool for the green and white ferry also comes with an appreciation of just how cheap this amazing commute is; 2.50 HKD (around 0.20 GBP) on weekdays, and 3.40 HKD (around 0.30 GBP) at weekends.
It takes just ten minutes to make the crossing, but originally, it took around an hour. The service was first set up by Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala, a Parsi cook, in 1880 on his steam boat The Morning Star. 10 years later, the fleet had grown to four boats – each with ‘star’ as part of its name – and had been bought by British-Armenian businessman Catchick Paul Chater. He renamed it The “Star” Ferry Company. The picturesque fleet now connects the Central and Wanchai districts of Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha
Tsui on the Kowloon side. While both Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui piers remain unchanged, Central pier was relocated from Edinburgh Place – a waterfront landmark of my childhood memories – to the modern Central Pier No. 7. In spite of the change in setting, my fondness for these creaky boats imbued with the aroma of salt and fuel endures. It even overrides my distain for the over eager, camera wielding cargo they carry. There is some solace in meeting the eyes of a fellow veteran commuter, equally grumpy about the shrill madness surrounding them.
If you catch the ferry on a quiet day when the sun is hitting the city just right, there is nothing quite as beautiful. Equally captivating are the details of the journey itself, such as observing the crew at work. They throw and catch the thick and aged ropes with effortless precision, using wooden poles with hooks to tie the vessel to its dock. The roll of the ferry too, perfectly timed to the track on your earphones, puts the mind at ease, if you let it. Soon, the ‘slowest ride ever’ feels far too short. Even after living most of my life here in Hong Kong, I rarely need to be reminded how good looking the city can be. Its best angle, without a doubt, is from a distance over calm waters.