HK’s century-old trams revamped

Updated 24 January 2013
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HK’s century-old trams revamped

Trundling along slowly against a backdrop of glittering skyscrapers, Hong Kong’s trams are entering a new phase of their life but their well-loved retro look is here to stay.
Since 2011 a handful of vehicles have had their wooden seats replaced and some now have air conditioning, but the network’s operator says that the small steps toward modernization will remain subtle.
The 109-year-old trams, fondly referred to as “ding ding” from the sound of their bells, retain a special place in the hearts of Hong Kongers, despite their sharp contrast to the rest of the fast-paced Asian metropolis.
“We ensure that the facelift maintains the iconic image of the trams,” Hong Kong Tramways managing director Tsang Wing-hang told AFP.
“The newly renovated tram is a combination of modern interior design with traditional tram body exterior.”
Every day the city’s 163 trams carry 230,000 passengers, from office workers and students to tourists, all traveling on what is the largest double-deck tram system in the world.
The city’s network has lived through Japanese occupation, Hong Kong’s transformation into one of the world’s biggest financial hubs and the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
It has also survived the development of modern public transport, including a vast subway system, making it a rare symbol of the city’s rich history while much of Hong Kong’s colonial heritage has been demolished.
The double decker streetcars, with their facades in red, green and blue, are nowadays emblazoned with advertising, but most still operate without air conditioning and rattle along at the speed of a bicycle.
They also go against the tide of rising prices in the city, with a flat fare of just HK dollars 2.30 (30 US cents) for a ride anywhere on the 120-stop system.
A leisurely tram trip is one of the best ways to see the many faces of the former British colony, from its bustling financial district, traditional markets and colorful nightlife hotspots.
“It has become a Hong Kong symbol. Hong Kong would not be the same without the sound of the ‘ding ding’,” 61-year-old retiree Kuok Yee-tung said as he took his daily tram ride across the city, his favorite pastime.


‘Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin announces new book

Updated 14 min 6 sec ago
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‘Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin announces new book

NEW YORK: American author George R.R. Martin Wednesday announced a new book to be released in November — but fans may be disappointed to learn it’s not the highly-anticipated sixth installment of the hit “Game of Thrones” saga.
“Fire and Blood” is set several centuries before “Game of Thrones” in the same fantasy world of Westeros, the author said on his blog. Martin stressed it is not a novel, but rather a historical text setting out the history of Westeros’ Targaryen dynasty.
Since 2012, the author has published several passages from the new book. Publisher Bantam Spectra did not respond to a request for comment about the upcoming release, but the book is already available for presale online
As for the sixth “Game of Thrones” book — “The Winds of Winter” — Martin said: “No, winter is not coming... not in 2018, at least.”
Between 1996 and 2011, Martin published five volumes of the “Game of Thrones” series — letting six years pass between the fourth and fifth.
Since the sixth season of the phenomenally popular television show based on the series, the writers have not directly relied on Martin’s books — and in any case, producer HBO took many liberties with the original story in previous seasons.
The series — whose eighth and final season is expected in 2019 — has already scooped up a record 38 Emmy Awards.