FERRY DAY 9 – The Awful Truth Behind Central Ferry Piers No.s 7, 8, 9 & 10

Ferry Day 9 – If you recall, as we left things a few days ago we had just completed the first 6 ferry piers from Central on Hong Kong Island, taking a total of 34 separate ferry journeys.

Now I have a confession to make. There are no more ferries left to take from the Central Ferry Piers. None. They’re all finished.

I could just leave it at that and either go on to describe the rest of my day or the particularly nice bubble tea I had in Peking Rd this morning, but perhaps it would be better if I explained a bit. You see, those of you who have a good memory, and those of you who know Hong Kong, will have already spotted that the day before I took my first ferry – out to Park Island, home of Noah’s Ark – Susie and I took the Star Ferry from our side (Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon) over to Central. Meaning that I had already used Pier No7. I did that same ferry crossing again this morning, just to show my commitment to this slightly struggling project, although I did compromise a bit, since I left my bicycle safely stored in the hotel’s concierge’s office. If you recall, bikes are not permitted on the popular shorter Star Ferry crossing, which is why I’ve been going all the way over to Wan Chai every day and then riding back along the waterfront for a mile or so.

So here for the record, is Pier No7 as it looked at about 9.30 this morning:

I walked, not cycled, across the front of the modern-but-Edwardian-styled Central Ferry building to the next pier along, No.8. Until 2012 his was used by the Star Ferry for their route over to Hung Hom, which would have been quite convenient for our hotel location. Since then it has been the home of the magnificent Hong Kong Maritime Museum, where I spent my morning. I’ll have to make up for the lack of watery adventures by sharing a few of the museum’s watery highlights with you. One is an astounding early 19th century scroll painting telling the story of the rampant piracy in these seas, which continued until really quite recently. It had a style of portraying fires on board junks that looked quite modern:There was also a very gruesome pair of photographs, which I’ll spare you, of the execution by beheading of fifteen pirates on a beach, at around the beginning of the 20th century.

The Opium Wars are covered in a lot of detail, as they were at the Museum of History, since so much of this part of history was centered on the high seas. Basically, the British wanted to buy tea from China, and realised they could trade it for opium from India, which they had plenty of, but the Chinese, understandably, really didn’t want their entire nation to be flooded with a highly addictive drug. The war was the result of Britain trying to force them to accept opium on whatever terms they liked. There was a phrase in Chinese (not sure whether it’s Cantonese or Mandarin) on display, with its very own spotlight, that seemed to sum up how the conflict might have felt from a Chinese perspective:One other contemporary model of an early warship caught my attention. As an example of ingenuity at sea, it’s pretty hard to beat. The war boat was from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and was made in two sections, front and back. The front section was crammed with five large metal ‘mines’, all with fuses and looking just like cartoon versions of a bomb, as well as five ‘torpedos’, which were sticks packed with explosives at one end. The prow had an array of iron spikes pointing forwards, and the ship would be rowed as fast as possible into the enemy vessel, forcing the spikes into the wood of the other ship. The fuses would be lit, the rear section detached and rowed away as fast as possible, to watch the ensuing destruction from a safe distance.I read that the Chinese had the greatest naval fleet in the world during the early 1400s. A huge armada sailed west on several separate expeditions over many years, going as far as East Africa, but on their return the political climate had changed and these adventures were deliberately abandoned, little realising that they were leaving a vacuum into which the nations of Europe, who were less advanced but catching up fast, happily sailed.

I was a bit disturbed on the top floor where I came across the bridge of a supertanker sailing unattended around Victoria Harbour, but I have mentioned what a crazy place this is.

The side of the pier was being used for something else: one of the boats I’ve watched plying up and down the open waters of the harbour, crewed by a two people picking up floating rubbish with a long net or a big hook, was now cleaning up the waterfront area, working tirelessly to make the place a bit better for all of us.I walked away from Pier 8 to the east, to show you why there are no more ferries to be had: both Piers 9 & 10 are ‘Public’, meaning that they’re used for fishing, tai chi exercises, singing karaoke, jogging, posing for elaborate selfies, and watching the tourist Junk boats pull in to stock up and prepare for their next sailing.So having taken a couple of weeks to cover the first half of the ten piers, the second half has taken about a morning. What this means is that I’m now on the lookout for any other ferry routes that I might be able to take from different locations around Hong Kong. My problem is that once you’re away from the main routes the piers look rather tricky to get to, the websites are mostly in Chinese and I’m very unclear about which ones will let me take a bike as freight. So the next stage is for me to enlist some local help – probably my friends at the hotel desk – to work out where to go next. If I manage to find another ferry to add to this Ferry Challenge, you’ll be hearing about it here, so stay tuned.

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