An account of my tour from my lodgings in Sai Wan to Victoria's Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong and the best place to take in the city skyline of Hong Kong. During my journey, I had to go through Pacific Place in Admiralty, before taking a short stroll through Hong Kong Park and catching the next mountain tram that departs from the Peak tram station.
|Victoria's Peak Tour:|
1. Admiralty, Pacific Place
2. Hong Kong Park
3. Peak Tram Station
4. Victoria's Peak
5. Causeway Bay for dinner
Before departing, I made sure that I grabbed the Hong Kong City Guide Map that my cousin had kindly left behind. Although it is mainly in Chinese, this book is highly recommended for any visitor new to Hong Kong. It is like the London A-Z, but only more. On each map, the tram routes and their stations are indicated clearly with their numbers, while each building along each main street and road are labelled with their name. Before my last day in Hong Kong, I made sure that I would get the latest copy.
My journey began at the tram stop outside the Chung yip centre in Sai Wan. After studying my map, I caught the next tram that would take me to Admiralty. The tram passed through Chung Wan and some of the familiar department stores such as Wing On, one that I remembered a long time back since my last trip. When the familiar glass and steel tower of the HSBC appeared, I knew that I had arrived at Admiralty, but it wasn't until a few minutes later when I arrived at Pacific Place.
Even though the twin towers make it look like any other office block, Pacific Place is pretty easy to spot since the building is clearly labelled from the front. Designed by Wong and Ouyang, the basement building is a shopping centre and cinema complex while the hotel rooms of Conrad and the Island Shangri-La occupy the towers. At the western point is a very long escalator that leads up to Hong Kong Park. Knowing that the morning was slipping away, I quickly proceeded up the long escalator to the park.
After what seemed like walking up the stairway to heaven, I finally got to Hong Kong Park and studied the map to find the best way to get to the tram station from following my cousin's directions. According to the map, I followed a long water canal towards the clock tower. Then I walked along the large pond where the Lippo towers can be seen.
While making my journey towards the peak tram station, I asked a tourist to take a picture of me near some steps that led down to the exit of the park, just to chart my record to Victoria's Peak. Knowing that I looked chinese, she was a bit surprised by my fluent english, but happily took the photo. Thanking her, I headed west towards the Peak tram station.
If there is one thing I should never had looked at, it was my Lonely Planet guide. It said that Peak tram was free, but why were tourists paying about 60 bob for tickets? Or maybe the guidebook was referring to walking up the steep incline, which was free. Anyway, after getting my tickets, I made sure that I sat at the best seats on the left side of the carriage (or the right side if you are looking directly from the platform). Since the route is steep, the tram floor is slanted to help people sit in the seats while deep grooves had been built into the floor to help people stand.
The journey takes approximately 15 minutes and a commentary on the history of the tram is played. This is completely different from my last trip, the white and green tram I sat in more than a decade ago felt like a rust-bucket and passengers had to basically hold on to their seats. I saw one of these parked on the side tracks, but our tram was moving too fast to take a good photo. Instead, I decided to concentrate on taking pictures of the scenery.
The Peak tower looked nothing like the one I saw more than 10 years ago. Before, it was just a stout cylindrically-shaped building with a nice touristy-styled restaurant and some souvenir shops. Now, a large cup-shaped tower stands over the original site, complete with a theme exhibition called Ripley's Believe it or not and a virtural reality ride as well as the usual restaurants and souvenir shops. Very touristy, I thought to myself. I suppose the only benefit is the viewing platform where visitors can catch most of the skyline. I suppose if I had my time, I would have asked the information desk what had happened during the last 10-15 years, but instead I went to the Peak galleria for lunch at MacDonalds before going for the long walk (just opposite the tower).
The Hong Kong Trail is a 3.5 km walk around Victoria's Peak and it has the best views of the city, from Causeway Bay to Sai Wan as well as Kowloon and the New Territories across the harbour, as well as good views of Repulse bay, Lamma Island and Aberdeen in the south. It begins from Lugard Road and ends at Mt Austin Road, but that depends on if you start from Lugard Road first. The views of the city blends in with some short and narrow forest walks along the hillside while hawks and kites can be seen gliding way above the city skyline, oblivious to the human activity and pollution below. Unfortunately, I didn't have a good enough camera to capture them on film since the hawks are quite fast when they're airborne. Being up here really feels like I am at the top of the heavens.
At the end of the day, I met with relatives for dinner at Causeway Bay. There was a warm atmosphere inside the restaurant, lots of people in vocal conversation, as they enjoyed their food. We decided to order Steamboat, which basically involves dunking in various pieces of food, including fish, prawns, beef and vegetables, into a boiling, steaming pot that was placed in the middle of the table. Not surprisingly, they ordered lots of food, since they were expecting me to finish it!
But if there was one thing important in everyone's mind, it was how I was coping living and working in London. The eldest of my cousins, who also worked in IT asked
"How do you get work and live in the UK".
"It was pretty hard, even for someone like me who was well-educated, mainly because the UK was falling hard on its heels after the dot-com boom and there are too many people unemployed, just like in Hong Kong" I replied.
Only Hong Kong was worse. As we visited some of the market stalls in the alleyways, you hear stories of people in top management getting retrenched and finding themselves doing delivery work. One of the people working at the stalls use to be a manager at a textile firm, but is now selling clothes. Sometimes, I felt like I wanted to change their world, especially after being up in the heavens at Victoria's Peak. But like Bono,
I'm running out of change, but there's a lot of things, if I could I'd rearrange