During a recent trip to Hong Kong to research public transit, my wife and I spent a day on Hong Kong Island exploring much more than Central (the HK CBD).  Instead of the usual tourist places, I wanted to test out the public bus services to less well-known parts of the island where regular folks abide, including Aberdeen (west side of the island) and Stanley (south side).

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View from the top front seats of the 970X bus in Kowloon headed toward the Kong Kong Island tunnel.

It didn’t take long to figure out that we could take the 970X transit bus, a 45-minute trip directly from Kowloon to Aberdeen (runs every 12 minutes, like most of the hundreds of double-decker transit bus routes in Hong Kong). The bus cost me HK$2 as a senior (about 30 U.S. cents) and HK$11 for my wife (about US$1.50).

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Many of the older Kowloon buildings are cooled by window units. This 15 story residence is modest by today’s high rises.  Note men and women alike in Hong Kong employ umbrellas as sun shades.

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Photo above is of the tunnel approach from the Kowloon side, with Hong Kong Island visible across Victoria Bay in the distance.  Note modern high rise residential building on the left.

We paid the bus fares by swiping our rechargeable Octopus Cards, transit cards universally accepted in Hong Kong on subway trains, buses, ferries (even the quaint Star Ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong Central), and increasingly in retail stores like 7-Eleven.

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Above are three photos taken on Hong Kong island while on the 970X transit bus ride Kowloon to Aberdeen from the perspective of the upper deck in the front seats, amply demonstrating the dense urban nature of residential Hong Kong, an area seldom seen except by residents..

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The above photo is of Aberdeen looking across the narrow bay to Ap Lei Chau Island.  Before continuing on our circular journey around Hong Kong Island, we stopped at the local Aberdeen market.  And “local” it is, with nary a tourist to be seen.

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The Aberdeen market includes meat and veggies of all sorts, but I was especially interested in the wide range of fresh seafood. Above photos are of the live crabs, fish, weird crustaceans that look like the Balmain Bugs I used to savor in Australia’s Queeensland, and all kinds of live shellfish.

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For lunch we took a tiny ferry (also public transport) across from Aberdeen to Ap Lei Chau Island to find the “Cooked Food Centre” in the island’s market building (an entirely different market from the one in Aberdeen). Note in the first (top) photo that the Octopus Card is even accepted on the little ferry boat (the sensor to the right of the pilot next to the fare box).

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Cooked Seafood Centre on Ap Lei Chau Island.

At the Cooked Seafood Centre, we mastered the technique required, which is to first buy food (usually live seafood) downstairs from the fresh seafood vendors in the vast hall that is the market, and then take the purchases upstairs to be prepared by the cooks in the many small food stalls (see above photo).

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Live crabs I selected from a vendor downstairs.

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Same crabs as barbecued by the vendor upstairs.

I chose two large rust-colored, mottled crabs after counseling with one of the chefs upstairs as to which of the many crab varieties has the best flavor (see two above photos). Our chef prepared the crabs with barbecue sauces, garlic, ginger, and spring onions. The crabs were sensational (bottom pic)! I needed my lifetime of eastern North Carolina Blue Crab-picking experience to extract every morsel to do them justice!

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Weird saltwater crustacean as I selected it (and its pal) from a seafood vendor downstairs.

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Same crustaceans after cooking upstairs.

I also chose two very large crustaceans that look like a hybrid between Atlantic Caribbean lobsters and Gulf shrimp (see two above photos). They reminded me in appearance of Balmain Bugs, a crustacean I used to eat in Queensland on the NE coast of Australia. These were prepared with garlic and hot red chili sauce and were scrumptious (picture immediately above).

It was not cheap! Together the crabs and weird crustaceans were HK $450 (US$60), and the food stall charged another US$15 to prepare them, but you only live once!

Leaving Aberdeen after lunch on the 973/73 bus Aberdeen to Stanley and then the 6/6X bus from Stanley to HK Central, we were treated to more dense residential development.

Any first-time visitor to Hong Kong should take the 6 or 6X bus from HK Central to Stanley and back. But not to see Stanley, though you might enjoy a quick glimpse at its unremarkable bay. While humble Aberdeen retains some of the grit of its fishing village roots, Stanley has gentrified into a cutsie, inauthentic, Mediterranean-inspired tourist trap that isn’t worth spending much time in; well, unless you like overpaying for iced coffee and imported beer.

That said, the 6 and 6X transit bus rides to Stanley and return offer spectacular views, made even more so if you snag one of the four upper deck front seats (they are often vacant because locals prefer a shadier seat). And the round trip by transit bus is far cheaper than a taxi or tour bus.

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Above photos are of gorgeous Repulse Bay, which lies between Central and Stanley. The enormous residential tower depicted immediately above has a square hole in the middle.  That hole was constructed into the building because, according to feng shui principles, it’s unlucky to block the dragon who lives in the mountains from accessing the sea. If the dragon can’t get through, he might knock down the building.

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Above pic is of one of the many small, but highly effective roundabouts that are not more than a painted circle in the center of the intersection. They work well.

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Just above photo is of the Wan Chai-Admiralty area of Hong Kong as the 6/6X bus comes over the mountains into the northeastern side of the city.

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The three pictures above are of the view coming into Central. The pictures are a bit washed out due to over-exposure (the sun was above and in front), but still illustrate that Hong Kong is a big, beautiful city.

After a full day of exploring parts of Hong Kong island, all by public transit, we closed the circuit back to our Kowloon hotel by taking the Star Ferry to Kowloon and then the 1/1A bus from the Kowloon ferry terminal to Nathan Road at Jordan Road. Every mode, including the Star Ferry, accepted the Octopus Card (universal transit card) for fare payment, even the itty-bitty ferry at Aberdeen to Ap Lei Chau island.

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Above photo is of the Star Ferry upper deck interior.

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Central’s famed “Central” skyline from the pedestrian bridge leading to the Star Ferry.

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Enjoying the skyline view from the Star Ferry as we cross to Kowloon.

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Last photo is a Star Ferry heading back to Central as our Kowloon-bound ferry passes in Victoria Harbour.

I admit to being a public transit geek who enjoys learning best practices from good transit systems worldwide by testing their network services, but, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun doing it as in Hong Kong!

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