The Bus

It’s Monday morning, and I have the early shift again. After I leave the house, I remember that I used up my Octopus card yesterday, so I stop by Circle K to get it topped up. It’s about 5:30 in the morning.

Now I get to decide if I want to take the bus or the MTR to work. The bus is a relatively new thing that I discovered only recently. From my area, there’s one that goes to the airport that also happens to pass by the office. It costs more than the MTR, but because it goes to the airport it’s more decked out than a normal bus, with leather and reclining seats, and subdued lighting. It’s a very comfortable ride, and it’s pretty much door-to-door. As much as I love the MTR, I’m really not awake yet and don’t need the bright lights and loud speakers blaring at me at six in the morning. Bus it is.

The bus arrives and I quickly board, tap my Octopus card, and climb up to the upper deck. I take one of my favorite seats at the very front of the bus, on the left side closest to the sidewalk. From this seat, I can see the world coming as the bus moves forward, and I can also people-watch through the side window. It’s one of my favorite activities in Hong Kong. Of course, in the early morning there’s not much people-watching, just a few air travelers carrying their bags onto the bus. About thirty minutes later, I’m in the office.

I wish I discovered this earlier. I’ve always enjoyed Hong Kong’s buses. From a young age I could already recognize the different models of vehicles used in the fleet. Because of Hong Kong’s limited space, during its development both buildings and vehicles expanded upwards in order to accommodate the increasing number of people. As a result, we now have a unique combination where if you sit on the upper deck of a bus, not only can you much better see what’s going on on the street, but you can also very often catch a glimpse of what’s going on inside a building. Maybe that’s why it’s so much fun to ride on the bus: there’s always something to see.

The other cool thing about buses in Hong Kong (or, perhaps just in the areas I visit) is that there are lots of overlapping routes, which means that if I miss a bus I don’t have to wait long for another one. This is especially vital in the summer, when it can get really hot and dusty at the bus stop by the side of the road. Ironically, it’s usually the buses that cause the heat and dust with their air conditioning and engine exhaust.

Now, it’s four-thirty in the afternoon. Once again I make my way down to the bus stops next to the Western Harbour Crossing toll plaza. The Western Harbour Crossing is the third cross harbour tunnel built in Hong Kong. The original Cross Harbour Tunnel opened in 1972, and ever since then there have been bus stops at all the harbour tunnel toll plazas. Interestingly, there are no bus stops on the island side of the tunnel, probably due to lack of space. I wait for a bus from one of the overlapping routes.

After work, I prefer to sit in the very back, on the opposite side, away from the sidewalk. After a long day, it helps to zone out and look at something distant, like the other side of the street. I sit back there with my headphones on, imagining a time in the future when I won’t be able to ride a double-decker bus in Hong Kong anymore. If we do end up going back, I will miss this aspect of living in Hong Kong.

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