Monday, 25 June 2012

A Hong Kong High

When I first discovered that my days off wouldn’t be consecutive, I was a bit disappointed. That was the end of the weekend trips to Macau or to mainland China that I’d imagined. However, I’m certainly seeing the bright side of having a weekday off:  It’s a perfect way to avoid the worst of the tourist crowds.

Today was a case in point. I decided to enjoy the other Must-Do Hong Kong experience – a ride on the Peak Tram. At 552 meters, Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island. The tram, built in 1888, is a funicular railway that scales the slope to the plateau at 370 meters. (Note the U.S. spellings – I have to stay sharp for work!)

Essentially, the tram is two streetcars/trolleys/whatever that are linked together and pulled up the incline by steel cables. It’s an amazing ride. The incline is steep – you’re praying the cable doesn’t snap and send you shooting back down the hill. The ride takes you through the green, tropical canopy that blankets much of the island, but there’s a moment when the track breaks through the trees and a collective “ooh” goes up from the riders.

I was keen to take the trip back down, wondering what it would be like on that incline. Interestingly, the tram seats don’t shift position, so riders face backwards on the return trip. Perhaps that’s intentional – I imagine the scream quotient would be high otherwise!

The Peak Tower has a viewing area seven stories above the ground and the view is amazing! Despite some mist across the way, I was able to see Hong Kong Island’s densely packed shoreline – high rise after high rise after high rise – as well as the harbour and Kowloon across the way. An extraordinary number of ships are docked just off the Kowloon coast, waiting to come into port, where cranes stand like soldiers waiting for the command to unload.

It was also a pleasure to be so high above sea level. There was a lovely breeze and the warm wind just whipped through my hair. Humidity was forgotten for a while and that was a pleasure, indeed!

After taking in the vistas from the tower, I walked the road that rings the plateau. Once again, I was under a canopy of trees, making the walk shady, but humid. The vegetation varied from the small -- mosses and lichens – to the massive -- India rubber trees. Every so often, I’d come to a clearing and was able to enjoy a different view of the shores and the harbour between. I saw a couple dozen people during the hour I walked the path, and given Hong Kong’s crowds, it was a treat.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. I’m back on flat ground and getting things organized for tomorrow. Back to work!

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