Everybody takes the Tram by Maggie Cheung

As a child I lived in a flat right above the final tram stop of Happy Valley. I would listen to the sounds that it made, the rails turning the bends on the metal track, dropping off my neighbours to come home, and then making the ding-ding sound each time that it was ready to go again, taking another batch of people away.

The tram in Hong Kong has its own unique appearance compared to the ones from other cities that still use trams as a mode of transportation. Even though they are manufactured in England, I remember that many years ago, the seats were woven in a straw type material, probably made like that for Hong Kong because we have so many hot and wet summer months in the year.

And what else can be a better witness of this amazing constantly growing city? It has seen Hong Kong through all the glorious golden moments, and even the not-so-good times. It is quite incredible that in just the last sixty years, so much has “moved” on this island.

Since the late 40’s to the early 50’s, people from China, (mainly from Shanghai), flooded in to settle down—bringing money, glamour, and sophistication, making a dramatic change to this small trading harbour. Then there were the riots, water shortages, and corruption problems in the 60’s. In the 70’s, early stages of modern architectural developments were starting, making Hong Kong now famous for having one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. It was also the most influential time for the growing “wealth” and the construction of Hong Kong as it is today.

The 80’s announced—to the shock of most Hong Kong people—that China and maybe communism would come to take over our lives in 1997, leaving everyone in panic. Families made decisions like buying smaller houses to gain some cash, or to immigrate abroad. As a result, it created a phenomenal “sells & buys” buzz, on the already “bursting and blooming” real estate market. Maybe that explains why there are so many rich people in Hong Kong today.

In the depressing 90’s, feelings of uncertainty and “not settling” were strong, because of the official hand-over from the British to the Chinese became a reality. And then the biggest ever economy crash happened right after.

Even more greatly so, the tram had resisted the invasion of hundreds of taxis, buses, mini-buses, motorbikes, cars, limos, and four-wheel drive that came along later.

The tram glides with pride and grace, staying on track, and keeping its pace.

It is about the only thing that survived all the movement that happened in Hong Kong without changing, and hopefully it never will.

Text: Maggie Cheung

Published in Issue 15 HONG KONG, 2005