Stressed-out? Can't sleep? HK tour company has just the ticket for you

HONG KONG • Most people would have experienced drifting off to sleep during a lengthy bus journey. But would you pay to do just that?

That is the idea behind a novel tour bus business in Hong Kong billing itself as a possible cure for insomnia.

One recent afternoon, about 70 passengers ranging from excitable infants to silver-haired retirees boarded two double-deckers plying a "route to nowhere". One was a "quiet bus" where people could sleep, the other was a more traditional sight-seeing option.

The 85km trip started in a bustling urban district and made its way mostly along coastal highways to the city's usually bustling airport, which has seen a fraction of the usual traffic throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

While some passengers enjoyed the view, many used the provided ear plugs and face masks and were soon fast asleep for the five-hour Sunday trip which included stops at various scenic sites.

"I think everyone has experienced not being able to sleep at home but they can sleep very soundly on a bus as the bus swings and vibrates," passenger and quiet bus convert Ho Wai told Agence France-Presse during the trip.

"Every Hong Konger has stress from work, from paying for a flat, from life and now we can't go travelling," he added, referring to the strict Covid-19 quarantine rules that have kept Hong Kong largely cut off from the rest of the world.

"With all these stresses adding up, I think a lot of Hong Kongers aren't sleeping well."

Fellow passenger Matthew Chick said he had been having trouble sleeping in recent weeks and decided to give the journey a go.

But he struggled to peel his eyes away from the view. "The weather today is too good to be sleeping," the 29-year-old said.

Tickets are priced between HK$99 and HK$399 (between S$17 and S$70) with upper deck seats carrying the higher price tag.

Mr Frankie Chow, president of Ulu Travel and the entrepreneur who came up with the idea, said he tried to pick routes with as few traffic lights as possible in order to reduce stops that might wake passengers.

He sees the bus as serving two purposes: a potential nap for those struggling to sleep, and also some excitement for Hong Kong residents wanting a bit of sightseeing at a time when the city is cut off internationally.

The city has maintained some of the world's harshest quarantine measures and travel restrictions during the pandemic. The strategy has kept infections low but it has also led to a business hub that dubs itself "Asia's World City" being isolated for the past 20 months.

"In the past, I would go to the airport (for travelling) each month," said a male passenger, who declined to give his name. "Aside from sleeping, this tour also gives us a sense of travelling."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2021, with the headline 'Stressed-out? Can't sleep? HK tour company has just the ticket for you'. Subscribe