Six of the best ways to get around Hong Kong

PEAK TRAM

The colonial era Peak Tram, the first cable funicular railway in Asia, celebrated its 130th anniversary this year. The tram's dizzying vertical seven-minute ascent extends 1.4 kilometres from Admiralty through residential high-rises and jungle greenery to The Peak. The original coal- and steam-operated tram with wooden carriages and three classes was built by a local entrepreneur primarily to help increase patronage to his hotel on the Peak, which was otherwise serviced by sedan chairs. But it proved popular for affluent residents and tourists alike. Within its first year, it carried 150,000 passengers – 80 per cent of Hong Kong's population at the time. It remains one of the city's most memorable journeys – each year more than 6 million tourists take a ride to the top for some of the city's best views. See thepeak.com.hk

STAR FERRY

Hong Kong's Star ferries began plying the waters of Victoria Harbour from around 1890. Today the antique vessels, complete with double-storey decks, maintain two routes between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central, and TST and Wan Chai, each taking about 8-15 minutes. The routes are primarily for commuters, but, for a mere $HKD2.70, tourists like to sit back on the reversible wood slat seats to watch the cross-harbour boats and take photos of sailor-suited staff juxtaposed against a futuristic skyline. Time your run for the city's spectacular Symphony of Lights at 8pm. For longer tours, catch the Shining Star, a replica 1920s ferry that does a loop around the harbour. See starferry.com.hk

HONG KONG TRAM

Fondly – and onomatopoeically – known as "ding dings", the city's endearing two-storey heritage trams trundle a slow-mo route along Hong Kong Island from Kennedy Town in the west to Shau Kei Wan in the east. They have been operating since 1904, with the loop around Happy Valley racecourse and extension to Shau Kei Wan added in the 1920s. The route and design have hardly changed since. Ding ding rides are a necessity for commuters, but like the Star Ferry, they're also a quintessential Hong Kong experience – a top deck pew provides a view onto the street-life of colourful neighbourhoods such as Wan Chai, Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun. And at just $HK2.30 a ride, they rival the Star Ferry for value too. See hktramways.com

AQUA LUNA

Gliding on the choppy waters of Victoria Harbour with its blood-red, batwing sails aloft, the Aqua Luna is a sight to behold. The fantastically old-world wooden fishing junk, with its high stern, low bow, standard rigging and curved hull, is one of only three traditionally made junks still taking to Hong Kong waters. It might be motor-powered and the sails purely decorative (the vessel was commissioned in 2006 by the eponymous local restaurant group), but a harbour cruise effortlessly recreate days gone by. Take a seat on the teak deck with a cocktail in hand for a 45-minute harbour cruise, settle in for a day cruise around the islands or combine dinner with an evening cruise, city lights and all. See aqualuna.com.hk

CABLE CAR

The Ngong Ping 360 scenic cable car, which departs from Tung Chung MTR station, offers a lofty and tranquil 5.7-kilometre, 25-minute ride over the verdant forested terrain of Lantau Island's mountainous country park. A round trip in a premium glass-bottomed "crystal" cabin is a magical experience, particularly when the South China Sea comes into view and the majestic head of the seated Tian Tan Buddha, one of the biggest in China, appears over a mountain rise. At the other end, there's a slightly tacky themed cultural village, or visitors can wander around the serene Po Lin Monastery and walk the 268 steps to the base of the Buddha. See np360.com.hk

RED TOYOTA TAXIS

London has black cabs, New York has yellow taxicabs and HK has little red (blue and green depending on where you are) Toyota taxis. The retro cool Crown Comfort model is a hangover from the 1970s when Japanese vehicles replaced the European styles. They've coined the market ever since. They're relatively cheap ($HKD$30-$40 is your average ride) and, with more than 15,000 on HK Island alone, easy to flag. Simply raise your hand to have one pull kerbside in seconds. Aesthetic quirks include black vinyl bench seats (that get slippery in the humidity), rear doors that close by themselves and little round lights on the dashboard. They're metered, trusted and tips aren't expected, but they're hard to resist.

Penny Watson travelled at her own expense. She is the author of Hong Kong Precincts, published by Hardie Grant. Her new carry-on sized Hong Kong Pocket Precincts will be published in 2019. See: hardiegrant.com and DiscoverHongKong.com/au