Sunday, April 5: After I get off the metro in Hong Kong Central, I head directly to the Peak Tram terminal. Luckily the skies are a perfect blue for a climb to Victoria Peak, known simply as The Peak. I crane my neck to admire the skyscrapers looming over me.
I pass by St. John’s Cathedral, officially The Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist, quite an anomaly in the midst of these modern skyscrapers. The Anglican church is the oldest surviving Western ecclesiastical building in Hong Kong, and the oldest Anglican church in the Far East; it had its first service on March 11, 1849 and was declared a Hong Kong monument in 1996.
Finally, I get to the Peak Tram terminal. The entrance seems to be on the right side of the road, but I’m told to go across the street and get in line there; I join a Disneyland-esque type queue that snakes around and around and seems to be moving at a turtle’s pace. I get into the queue. I wait. And wait. And wait. For about 40 minutes I creep forward in the line and I’m still only about halfway through.
At one point, when I reach the side of the queue nearest the street, a Hispanic-looking woman says to me, “Come with me! You!!” I look around. Who’s she talking to? She looks familiar. She points directly at me. “Yes, you! Come with me!”
I happily go under the rope and follow her as she escorts me across the street into the line on the other side, bypassing the other half of the queue I was originally in. “Don’t you recognize me?” she asks me. “I sold you the Big Bus ticket yesterday. You don’t have to stand in that queue if you have a Big Bus ticket! How long have you been standing in that line?”
Sheepishly, I say, “About 40 minutes.”
“You should already be at the top of the Peak!”
That’s what I get for half-listening to her when she explained yesterday morning the benefits of the Big Bus Ticket, which cost me a small fortune.
So, magically, I’m in the queue across the street, which seems to be nearly as interminable as the original queue. However, in this queue, at least I know the end is in sight. I can even spot a glimpse of the tram over all the heads.
Little by little, I move to the front of the line. It looks like I’ll make it after all. I can’t tell you how many times I thought of giving up and leaving while standing in that line. Finally, I see the tram leave, and then I’m at the front.
Everyone pushes and shoves onto the tram, all of us impatient from the long wait. We crowd inside and the doors close and we’re off. Voila!
Out the window of the tram, which is actually a funicular railway, we can see our first views of Hong Kong from above. The tram track is incredibly steep, climbing 386 vertical meters in about 8 minutes. The tram is not that big, so that’s why the long wait. Each time, it must go up and come down, as there is only one track and one tram.
We reach the top, where I snap a picture of these colorful wheels, and then I’m carried along with the crowd out into the sunshine.
And finally, we have a view. There, spread out beneath us, is Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Central, Kowloon, the green peaks of the New Territories, and who knows what else.
On the Hong Kong side, I can see the second highest building, the 416.8-meter high Two International Finance Centre, the second tallest building in Hong Kong, and across the harbour in Kowloon, International Commerce Centre, as of 2010, the tallest building at 118 stories and 484 meters.
I’m so lucky that it happens to be a gorgeous day with clear views. I’ve heard many people say they’ve visited Hong Kong when the visibility has been almost nil.
I’m also glad that I came here in the late afternoon, as the light is like warm honey poured over the skyscrapers.
Looking to the west, I can see the harbour on the Kowloon side, with its multitudes of boats.
You can actually walk through the forest on this path atop The Peak. I take a stroll, but I’m most interested in eventually finding the walkway down, and this isn’t it.
From this angle, I can see the crowds on a pretty pavilion jutting out over the Peak, and above it, people standing atop the Peak Tower.
The views are stunning, and it was definitely worth waiting in that long line to get up here.
Eventually, I decide to stop at the Starbucks for an iced coffee and to use the wi-fi to put some of my pictures on Instagram. Across from the Starbucks, I see the Peak Tower, with its unusual cross-sectional wok shape. Looking like an alien spaceship from the outside, it’s actually topped with a viewing platform and filled with a shopping mall and coffee shops.
After I take my rest, I take numerous escalators to the viewing platform at the top of the Peak Tower, and this is what I see.
I can see the sun is getting low in the sky, and after seeing the lines to go back down on the tram, I determine I am going to walk down the Peak. It takes me awhile to find the pathway down, the Old Peak Road, along the far side of the Peak Tower. I take a last look at the Peak Tower before I begin my descent.
I pass some joggers and walkers going both up and down the Old Peak Road and I don’t know how on earth they are actually running up this steep walkway. I’m almost running headlong, it’s so steep.
Finally, after about 40 minutes, I make it to the bottom. My goal is to reach the Mid-Levels Escalator, but instead I pass by the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, closing up for the day. People I meet along the way tell me the Mid-Levels Escalator is quite a long walk, and by now, after having been to Lantau Island and the Peak, my legs are exhausted. Instead I head toward Central and the metro.
I’m starving and tired by this point, and I just happen to see a little Turkish place as I stand on a street corner trying to determine what direction to go. It’s called Tava, and there I order some lentil soup and a fried halloumi cheese salad. I sit in the window and watch the iconic Hong Kong taxis zipping by on the street. It’s the perfect ending to a fantastic day.
After dinner, I feel rested, so I make my way back to the metro and take it directly back to the Yau Ma Tei stop, not far from my hotel. After resting a bit there, I intend to go out to explore the Night Market, just a couple of blocks from my hotel.