October 13, 2015
Sometimes there are things that other countries just do much, much better than the US. One thing I can think of off the top of my head is the subway systems in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Another thing that I’ll discuss in detail is the Octopus Card, a feature of Hong Kong.
The Octopus Card is a debit card and a transportation card in one. It’s amazing because you can refill it at machines in the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) stations as well as the customer service booths in said stations. It’s also really nice because the machines have an English option, so it isn’t difficult to add money onto the card. The MTR staff are able to speak English, too. To get into the MTR, you just scan your card at the turnstile. It’s really quick and easy and definitely wins over the flimsy monthly cards that Septa offers (as well as heavy tokens). I’ve heard that Septa is updating all of their facilities, however, so I’m excited about that.
Octopus Cards aren’t just used to get into the MTR stations, though. What I absolutely love is that you can use it to pay for other things. The vending machines at the school don’t accept coins or bills but Octopus. You just select the drink you want, scan your card, and you get your drink. Octopus is accepted in other stores, too. Convenience stores like 7-11 accept it as a form of payment (say goodbye to handing bills and coins!). Other stores like 759 Store (a small grocery chain specializing in imported Asian foods), Taste (the closest international supermarket to CityU), and Wellcome (a cheaper grocery option, also near the school) all accept the Octopus Card. Many other stores accept Octopus as payment.
The CityU canteens all accept Octopus, too. My favorite place to go to utilize the Octopus to its max potential is the canteen at Academic Building 1. There are tons of stations/booths that specialize in a type of food. To order, you can go up to the main counter and talk to people behind the counter, but that isn’t needed if you have an Octopus! If you’re like me and have suddenly developed an aversion to talking to people (I’m still dealing with the language barrier…), you can use the Octopus at the order machines. There are about 6 machines around the canteen. You can go and select the meal that you want — everything is in English, so it’s easy. The machines are touchscreens, so it’s very high-tech. Once you’ve completed your order, you scan your Octopus, then your receipt prints out. You grab the receipt, then go to the station that the receipt directs you to, hand your receipt to the attendant, and get your food. It’s easy peasy and you don’t even have to talk to people. How great is that?
A bonus that CityU students (as well as other university students) have is a discount off MTR rides — up to 50% off the regular fare, I think? The only issue is applying for the student-status MTR. I applied on the September 1st, the earliest day, and I can only pick up the card on November 16th. This is a long time considering the fact that I am leaving the country on December 20th! Luckily, though, we get a temporary student-status MTR card to use before we get our real MTR card. The MTR card I have now works perfectly fine, but I just can’t wait to get my real card. Another feature that it has is personalization. That is, the card will have a photo of my face on it. This feature is really cute… Philly, get on your game.