The best view in Hong Kong
Victoria Peak stands hemmed in by the skyscrapers that knit together contemporary Hong Kong. It is one of a range of mountains that lurch over the flashy high-rises, each one still surpassing the roofs of the impatiently straining hotels and offices that desperately push higher and higher into the sky. But so far, nature has just about retained its dominance. The mountains, visible from the criss-cross of streets that ebb up their lower slopes, stand smugly and solidly revelling in their advantage – for now.
The peak tram is almost as iconic as the Peak itself. A furnicular railway that has been running in various incarnations of wood and pulleys for 120 years, it tows hundreds of camera toting tourists up its slopes every day. The view to the right as you ascend is by far the most favourable, offering up the chequerboard of Hong Kong that dwindles in size as you rise above it. The tram car has wooden benches, but these are instantly filled and soon bodies are packed tightly into the aisles too. It is promoted as a tourist attraction, but sadly its sardine-like jam of people make it feel more like a busy commuter train in rush hour.
The top platform releases you out into a glossy shopping mall. Following the escalators heavenward eventually leads you to the viewing platform. From here the sprawling city steams beneath you, the hum of traffic replaced by the buzz of chattering tourists taking in the view. Hong Kong is a city full of people, but not so full of space. In order to fulfil the demands of the ever expanding population, the buildings just keep on growing. Hotels, apartment buildings, offices – the only way to accommodate such numbers of people is to place them in the sky.
Looking out from on high gives 360 degree views over the city. You can see the entirety of Hong Kong island immediately surrounding the peak, the strip of blue sea that marks the harbour and the Kowloon district immediately across it. On a clear day you can even see the islands lying at your feet in the sparkling blueness, carelessly scattered humps of land punctuating the rolling ocean. Being able to view the entire city from this bird’s eye point of view is the most wonderful perspective.
Down from the viewing platform and to the right, small stone lions perch atop the balustrade. Their lichen strewn antiquity contrasts sharply with the modernity of the urban chaos simmering below. In Hong Kong the new advances of technology have taken a firm grip and this is a city brimming with expansion and commercialisation. It is vibrant and immediate and exciting, but it is nice to step away from it for a moment and to look out over the city from above. Dusk threatens and the lights begin to come on. Soon the view is transformed into the morse-code dots of a hundred lit up windows. Like fairy lights strung across the blackness of the night, they twinkle their tales of heartbreak and hope.
It is our last night in Hong Kong, our last night in China. This adventure is coming to a close. Up above all the lights feels like an appropriate place to spend our last evening – staring out dreamily at the burning city below us and feeling the wonder of life and of travel.
The Peak Tram departs from the central district (nearest mtr central then follow the signs). It costs about HK$40 for a return trip. If you can get a seat, try to be on the right hand side on the way up and the left on the way down – this side gives the best views. Most of the peak itself is free of charge, but the Sky terrace 360 viewing platform carries an extra cost. This can be paid for at the entrance or included in your tram ticket with the purchase of a “skypass” for HK$65 per person. If you’re not interested in the tram, you can also catch bus 15 from the public ferry piers in the central district (star ferry etc) to the top of the peak. There are lots of restaurants up here offering everything from big expensive meals to fast food, so there should be something to suit everyone. Its worth getting up there in the daylight and watching the sunset. That way you get to see both day and night from above.
Words copyright of Bonnie Radcliffe.
Photographs copyright of Liam McCarthy.