Ask the Author - Olivier Nowak

Ask the Author - Olivier Nowak

What do you do when you love travelling but are stuck during covid in one place? Olivier created a tram (Ding Ding) that did the exploring for him!
Ask the Author - Aniela Chaudhuri Reading Ask the Author - Olivier Nowak 6 minutes

As a group of avid readers in the LRP team we are very happy to have recently expanded our book offering online and in the showroom. We knew you would be interested in finding out more about some of the wonderful authors and illustrators who have created the ones we've selected. All books have a Hong Kong theme whether it be written or illustrated by someone who lives here or is about the city, the stories and the history of the place so many of us call home.

We have created a series of Ask The Author blog posts where we ask the same three questions (with an added bonus one at the end!) to find out more about their connection to the city, what their book is all about, what inspires them and their favourite things to see and do in the 852.

Ding Ding the tram book About you

Born in Paris, where I had spent most of my “French life”, I deviated from science studies when I got selected in my late teen years for studying music at the “Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris”. 

I truly loved Paris (who wouldn’t?…), but I’d been attracted by a life elsewhere for ages, and after a taste of life in the USA through a student exchange programme between the Paris Conservatoire and Yale University, I looked for opportunities to live in Asia a few years later. Fortunately for me, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra advertised for a flute (my instrument) audition in 2008, and since then, I have been playing in this fantastic orchestra, in this extraordinary city, Hong Kong. 

 Ding Ding the tram book

Your inspiration

Anybody who opens my Around the World with a Ding Ding Tram picture book will understand immediately that my very first inspiration - and motivation - are my children.

The book is dedicated to them. They saw every sketch - I mostly draw at night, when they sleep, and my older one (who just turned 5) is always eager to check and give his opinion on what “papa” drew the night before.

Apart from the fatherhood aspect, the frustration to not be free to travel in the past 3 years has a big role in my motivation to create a kind of travelogue. 

It has been very enjoyable imagining this little avatar of myself (the tram) which is able to go visit the world without any restriction - as long as a land has rails, the tram can go!

I spent so many hours looking through my own travel memories, but mostly doing research on places I’d love to visit in order to make a book with a respectable amount of pages (around 50). And those uncountable hours have been wonderful - I know the world better now (and a part of me believes that it might also be interesting for anyone, children and parents, to open this book, travel the world through it and maybe even learn a couple of things)!

Last but not least - in terms of inspiration: the Ding Ding tram itself. Hong Kong’s charm lies in the graceful superposition of elements that are, in theory, not supposed to coexist: old-fashioned trams, looking like cans of Spam on wheels rolling between the most impressive skyscrapers. Hard to conceive that these “cans” could bring a plus to Hong Kong Island, but this touch of the past is the soul of Hong Kong, more than anything else to me. I “met” the Ding Ding trams even before arriving in Hong Kong, on posters, old postcards, in legendary movies of many periods (from the hilarious “The Private Eyes” to the thrilling and more recent “Accidents”, or all the Johnny To’s movies). They crossed the 20th century and they still resist against Hong Kong’s hyper-rationality with its scarce space. There’s definitely modes of transportation with better efficiency, but none of them have the same magic as our beloved trams.

Around the world with a Ding Ding Tram book

 Favourite thing to do or see in Hong Kong

Walking randomly, anywhere. That’s my way to feel freedom.

Apart from wandering randomly, here is a pot-pourri of daily life things I especially enjoy in Hong Kong:

  • the banyans (rare but present a bit everywhere) and the camphor trees extending their branches above Haiphong Road 
  • the neon boards in Mongkok, TST and Wanchai 
  • the incense burning in any temple (a special thought for the Pak Kung Temple at the crossing of Peel Street and Staunton Street - I was renting a shared apartment across the street during my first year in Hong Kong)
  • being surprised by a short but colossal shower in the summer (mostly if I can find a shelter and if I have nothing pressing at that moment…)
  • a ride on the Star Ferry (of course)
  • the local craft beers (“Asia’s international city” ’s internationality suffered from the closure of the past 3 years, but the boom and the quality of local craft beers is the sign, to my sole opinion, that there’s hope for recovering our internationality soon!)
  • (… ten thousand things, all moving, charming, exciting or unique)
  • Sai Kung Peninsula for hiking or canoeing (Tai Long Wan, Hoi Ha etc…)

Camping on Ham Tin beach (or anywhere close to the Sai Wan Stargazing Site) for studying the sky with my kids (my older one is absolutely fascinated by the planets, stars, galaxies and quasars).  

A tram route to recommend:

Rather than a route, I’d recommend to just take the tram from your closest terminus (Kennedy Town, Shau Kei Wan, Happy Valley, North Point, or Western Market) for having the front or back seats just for yourself. And to avoid the newer version of the tram (those with the front and back windows sealed): feeling the wind when the tram moves, apart from the environmental satisfaction to keep cool without using air con, is a much better way to really catch the air of Hong Kong.

My favourite spots on the tram:

  • The Causeway Bay crossing in front of Sogo. When the tram has to stop at the traffic light and an impressive flood of people is crossing just in front of you, that’s really a special experience.
  • Johnston Road in Wanchai (a very slow section, a lot of people also there! A very colourful section)
  • The arrival at North Point Terminus when the tram crosses the wet market. Even slower than Johnston Road. You’d go faster on your feet. But the view from the tram is ineffable.

Free shipping over $500

We currently offer free, tracked, shipping within Hong Kong (cards are sent untracked) on all orders over $500. International shipping is calcuated based on the destination.