Notice something different about this Hong Kong tram?
Yep, it's Hong Kong's first air-conditioned "ding ding"! ;b
As regular visitors to this blog will know, I'm a big fan of Hong Kong's ding ding: the double-decker trams whose lines run some 30 kilometers between Kennedy Town over on northwestern Hong Kong Island to Shau Kei Wan over on the northeastern side of the Big Lychee's most populated island (rather than the far more touristy and expensive Peak Tram). But even I have been known to baulk at taking this very economical mode of public transportation when it's raining, very hot out or, worst of all, both!
One problem with taking the tram on rainy days is that some of the windows on the older tramcars in the fleet have been known to jam when one tries to close them; consequently, drops of rain splash onto the seats by the window and such. When you add what falls off the wet umbrellas that passengers bring onto the tram and what rubs off their soaking wet clothing, it can seem well nigh impossible to find a dry seat on the ding ding when or just after the heavens open.
Alternatively, on steaming hot days when you want the tram windows wide open to let in whatever breeze that blows your way, you are likely to discover that some of them are annoyingly jammed shut! And it's on those very occasions when you'll wish that the trams had air conditioning the way that all buses, sections of the Star Ferry and the carriages of the MTR now do.
So you can imagine my eagerness to ride on Hong Kong's first ever air-conditioned tram after I read back in early June that the "Pilot Cooler Tram" -- as it's officially called -- would be going on a three month trial run. But I never did catch a glimpse of this pioneering tramcar -- whose flat fare is the same as the other ding ding: i.e., HK$2.30 (~30 US cents) -- until what actually was a rainy as well as hot afternoon earlier this week.
Suffice to say that this cool tram is just the ticket for a hot day as far as I'm concerned! Still, in the interests of energy saving, I remain open to the tramcars going without air-conditioning in the cooler months of the year (say, when temperatures go below 27 degrees Celsius (~80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) -- one of the three different temperature settings that they have been testing for the tram.
On a related subject: I don't actually think that new is better as far as the Hong Kong trams are concerned. For example, I actually prefer the interior designs and seats of the older tramcars over the newer ones; with the former feeling roomier and their seats more comfortable than those of the latter.
However, I also do appreciate that these iconic trams remain vehicles that many passengers opt to go on for convenience as well as economy rather than out of a sense of nostalgia or novelty. So if practical improvements can be made to this service (that result in such as greater riding comfort), I have little doubt that most people will welcome it! :)