Monday, 31 January 2011

'Hurry up, we'll miss the ferry.'

Ah! The ferries in Hong Kong!

People think Hong Kong is all shopping mall and skyscraper. Not at all. There's a lot of water here. Water, and 150 islands. Some you can live on, and some are lumps of vertical hairy rock which stick out of the water.

Most of the islands that you can live on are connected by ferries. These are an especially important subsection of Hong Kong transport, because if you live on an island without road or tunnel access and you get it wrong, you're stuffed. Although I hear tell of an old lady with a cackle and a sampan who lives in Aberdeen. She'll ferry you across the harbour for $500 and your soul.

If you want to avoid her and catch the ferry instead, here are some rules.

Pin up a large timetable of ferry arrivals and departures on the front door of your house, then look at it.
With timetable assistance, you are sure to catch the ferry!

Without timetable assistance, consider what disasters can happen. For example, the household breadwinner may suffer a heart attack or run out the house waving $500 and looking for the old woman.

Indeed, there may be complete meltdown and disaster! Like, any given day, if the breadwinner has been co-opted by the Russian World Service to talk about commas, but realises too late that there's no ferry for another 40 minutes, then adds the extra 30 minutes sailing time, they are bound to clutch their chest and turn pale. Now they will never make the BBC cupboard! They immediately regret their island lifestyle! All their plans are pfffft!

Arrive in good time to catch the ferry.
I know this is a hard rule to follow.

Travelling Aunty, have you noticed the general mayhem in every room of this house up to an hour before the boat departs?

You'll note how Shark is quickest to get ready. She can walk to the pier gates in 6 minutes 40 seconds if you don't get in her way, but needs 50 minutes mental preparation. Squirrel must find every small item under 3mm to put in her handbag, and Tiger must lock herself in the bedroom and refuse to come out. That occupies me in parental management schemes for a good hour.

So I never manage arrival at the pier without hufferypuffery red-in-the-face panic! Then on the way I must drop off the laundry, put the plastics recycling in the right bin, and shop for emergency buns to shovel into my handbag! How many activities can a woman do and yet arrive before the gates shut?

Be considerate. Remember the ferry is there for everyone.
Don't bloody forget it. And don't pity the old woman hobbling towards the gangplank. The gate shutter might be a soft hearted sissy, but our fellow passengers are not. They are a ruthlessly competitive tribe who will stare at the elderly late arse upsetting their plans for domination of Hong Kong by means of professional graphic design. They will shame the old woman via their preferred channel for official complaint.

Tomorrow, a poster reminding us of our social obligations regarding punctuality for the ferry timetable will go up in our faces. Make sure it doesn't have your mugshot displayed for island contempt.

You can run your Octopus pay card twice through the pay machine, but obviously not at the same one! Dumbo.
A technical note. All visitors please note, the Octopus pay card cannot be blipped twice at the same terminal, one after the other. That is very sensible. It makes sure you do not pay twice for the same journey.

Except I have triplets and a mean streak. Of course I try and scam the ferry system by passing the Octopus card back and forth between the kids over the head of the supervising guard who is there to ensure we all play fair. Shark has a 100 dollars credit on her card. Squirrel is down to -3, so what do you expect?

Look at the mayhem we can cause at peak time by passing back the non-transferable card, entering the turnstile just used by a sister with that card, causing the machine to scream, then reversing, standing on the feet of the people behind us, pushing our way into the next terminal, getting stuck, having to be rescued by the hapless guard, then eventually being led round the back of the pay booth having screwed up the entire paying system and knocked over three Chinese.

Avoid any ferry at school chuck-out time.
This is very important. The ferries are used by school kids. It is just like the school bus back home. Would you travel on that?

If you must travel at peak school ferry hours, sit outside. Do not sit next to Dig when you get there. He is constantly tutting and complaining about the behaviour of the expat offspring.

Actually, he is right. The graffiti that appears on the backs of the seats will peel off your eyelids. And the noise! Take ear plugs. These kids have been locked up all day and they are not allowed to run at break time or lunch time because 'there isn't enough room'.

See? I can be so helpful! If you come to Hong Kong and are foolish enough to live on an outlying island, keep to these very sound ferry rules, I urge you. I bet they are useful. I'm sure I could think of some more.

And such an engaging diary entry today! Nearly as interesting as the dinner conversation we had last night about telephone dialling codes in the Newcastle area 1958-1964.


MadameSmokinGun said...

Well I liked it. But then I'm intrigued by the Newcastle dialing codes of yesteryear. I once had a most enjoyable long-lasting conversation, round the back of our fellow bon viveurs in a restaurant, with a chap all about pencils. Oh we ran the gauntlet from 6H to 6B and beyond into Karisma Softs. Those giddy days....... when my eyes shone with enthusiasm....

Nora said...

You must have highly enervated nerves and somehow keep your cool anyway. I take my hat off for you.

Kelly said...

Ah, the ferries. How many times did Bruce run, clad in full dress wear to make the ferry to make the orchestra performance. I don't think he ever missed it. Brings back a lot of memories. Good times, drinking lukewarm beer and reading a book just purchased from the South China Morning Post bookstall. But...we didn't have any children at that time of course....