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Hong Kong from the Peak

Downtown and Kowloon from PeakView All Sizes

JOURNAL : August 28, 2012

Out & About in Hong Kong

Hong Kong > China

Series Out & About in Hong Kong

Arriving at Hong Kong International Airport

Even after midnight the queue through customs was long and took close to an hour to pass through. By then my reluctantly checked bag had been out of the carousel and stashed somewhere by the airline. If possible, and if you consider yourself a seasoned traveler, never check your baggage, unless transporting something that cannot be carried on, or the airlines has a weight limit for carry-ons, which is what happened to me. Get a suitcase that qualifies as a carry-on and make sure your stuff fits into it!

Hong Kong MTR Metro Train Inside

MTR Metro Train InsideView All Sizes

MTR Railway Station

MTR Railway Station

Riding the Metro

Hong Kong's MTR (Mass Transit Railway) trains — and all metros I boarded in China — are clean and efficient. While people smoked and spat in long-distance trains, airplanes, restaurants, hotel hallways and everywhere else, metros all across China seemed to be the immune to these plagues. The air was refreshingly clean and air conditioned. A great way to beat the muggy heat of the Chinese Summer is to step inside a metro train. Often, when the train launches from the station into the cool underground tunnels, a blast of arctic air washes through the cabin.

MTR Metro Station in Hong Kong

Yau Ma Tei Metro StationView All Sizes

The MTR is pretty amazing. Besides being fast and frequent, its lines extend all over Hong Kong Island, across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon and all the way across the New Territories to the edge of Shenzen city in Guandong province. The airport express zips across to Lantau Island to the Hong Kng International Airport. Check out this map of the MTR's routes.

Like most modern metros the MTR has color-coded lines which coincide with color-coded stations and terminals. Ticket-vending machines are visibly positioned, and purchases can be quickly made in either Chinese or English. While the MTR distributes tickets for the ride, other metros give out nifty tokens which are fed into the turnstiles in the same way, except that the token is not returned at the end of the journey.

Late at Night? Take a Taxi

However, I arrived after 1 AM only to discover the airport express trains do not operate between 00:48 and 5:54 in the morning (see timetable). If arriving during those times go find the official taxi queue. Taxi fares to various places in Hong Kong vary widely, so ask the driver or taxi coordinator for an estimate. Authorized metered taxis are regulated, and if you pay what's on the meter then you're getting a fair rate.

Des Voeux Road and Queen Victoria Street in Central Hong Kong

Des Voeux Road and Queen Victoria StreetView All Sizes

Out and About

In the morning I left the hotel to explore the city. This first day in China is also my birthday, but I am travelling alone and savoring the exotic new experience. The city is my present, alive with ancient, thriving culture, and many treasures to uncover. I emerge with a curious yet cautious attitude, a brisk, businesslike gait, and...

...A Loose Agenda

Hong Kong is packed with stuff to see and do. Among the classic tourist things to do are a harbor cruise on the Star Ferry, a visit to the Peak and Victoria Gardens via the Peak Tram, the night life of Lan Kwai Fong and Temple Street night market, and the various markets like the Jade Market or Bird & Flower markets. Around town are holy places like Man Mo Temple on Ladder Street, and Wong Tai Sin Temple which honors Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist deities. While in Kowloon you must also take a walk down bustling Nathan Street with its myriad colorful shops and restaurants, and serves to connect many of the best experiences in the area.

The Central Mid-Levels Escalator at Mosque Street

The Central Mid-Levels Escalator at Mosque StreetView All Sizes

As I was in Mong Kok, the first task was to find a metro station to get across the bay to Central Hong Kong. There would be time to explore this area later I thought. Instead, I got to wandering around and didn't end up at the MTR station for a half hour. I got food and other refreshments at local stores and stands on Nathan Street and inhaled the strange smells and cryptic signage.

Thankfully, streets in China are often transliterated into Latin letters. Otherwise most Westerners would be lost trying to decipher the Chinese characters, or match them up on a map.

The Central Mid-Levels Escalator

Inside the Central Mid-Level Escalators

Inside the Central Mid-Level EscalatorsView All Sizes

Ok so I get off the metro in Central. After a meal and some sightseeing, I stroll down Des Vouex Road and stumble up (or rather, step upon) the Central Mid-Level Escalators. At 2,598 feet / 792 meters it is the world's longest continuous string of escalators. They ride above the streets and span multiple buildings. Exit one and there's a coffee shop, a Chinese apothecary, a mall, or a street with lush plants, banyan trees and an elevated vista.

My goal is to check out the Peak, and the Central Mid-Levels Escalators hasten in that direction.

Conduit Road, Hong Kong

Conduit RoadView All Sizes

Map of Hong Kong

The last one exits at Conduit Road, which winds around the upper edge of the downtown area where the tropical forest meets the asphalt jungle. Conduit merges with Robinson Road and passes the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

The Peak Tram arrives at the Peak

The Peak Tram arrives at the PeakView All Sizes

The Peak Tram

Follow Garden Road until it runs into Lower Albert Road and get on the Peak Tram which rolls up the mountain to the peak above the city.

At the top is a huge building with a large viewing platform at the top. Besides the scenic vista, the Peak also hosts Victoria Gardens and the Governor's Walk with its scenic views of the south side of Hong Kong Island.

Double Decker Tram on Des Voeux Rd, Hong Kong

Double Decker Tram on Des Voeux RdView All Sizes

Double-Decker Trams

The Peak Tram is the famous cousin to a larger system of all-electric, double-decker trams that cruise all over the city and beyond. In a city fighting smog and pollution, they are a very environmentally friendly way to get around. This one cruising here just struck me suddenly as a bizarre sight, almost comical and deserving of a photo.

Harbor Cruise on the Star Ferry

Yes, a ride on the Star Ferry is a rite of passage for every visitor. You can take a ferry all over the islands, or just cruise the harbor. On this day I booked passage to soak in the city at night. Little did I know what treat lay in store.

The Symphony of Lights from Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong

The Symphony of LightsView All Sizes

Star Ferry at Queen's Pier

Star Ferry at Queen's PierView All Sizes

A Blurry Shot of the Symphony of Lights Show

A Blurry Shot of the Light Show

Hong Kong's HSBC Building at Night

HSBC Building

Skyscrapers from the Central Mall Rooftop

Skyscrapers from the Central Mall RooftopView All Sizes

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The Symphony of Lights!

The nightly Symphony of Lights is a dazzling display of coordination between giant skyscrapers across the city, and the music on board the Star Ferry. At least it seemed that way as giant, vivid lights sizzled and blinked and gradated and flicked and danced with spectacular rhythm. After what seemed like a half hour of brilliantly lit buildings showing their true colors on both sides of the bay, it ended with an orgy concentrated near Central. It was pretty amazing.

The Central Mall Rooftop at Night

The Central Mall RooftopView All Sizes

Xiangqi Players in Charter Garden

Xiangqi Players in Charter GardenView All Sizes

Xiangqi in Charter Garden

Fresh from the Peak Tram I stopped in Charter Garden to watch these old Chinese men playing the ancient game Xiangqi. If playing Chinese chess isn't your thing, the rest of Charter Garden is a lovely haven from the traffic of Central. The entrance to an MTR station is at the northwestern corner.

Xiangqi Players in Charter Garden, Hong Kong

Xiangqi Players in Charter GardenView All Sizes

One of my favorite aspects of Hong Kong is that although it's a massive metropolis spanning many islands, it is set amidst lush tropical scenery much in the same way as Honolulu. While traveling about town I drew many comparisons to back home in Hawaii.

Apple Store over Man Cheung Street, Hong Kong

Apple Store over Man Cheung StView All Sizes

What a Day

These photos only capture a few moments of a busy day. I think I walked nearly 10 miles today — all over the city, around the Peak, down to Central, then back to Kowloon and Mong Kok. This being the end of August, Hong Kong was hot and humid from the moment I stepped out of the hotel. Memorable but brief cooling events include riding the metro and walking through Central Mall. At least twice I took off my shirt, rinsed it and wrung it, then put it back on. This offered some temporary relief, and it might be advisable to bring an extra shirt if planning to trek around outside.

On the way to Queen's Pier there's this huge Apple Store straddling Man Cheung St.

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Hong Kong from the Peak

About this day

Out & About in Hong Kong

August 28, 2012

Hong Kong > China

Tags   Walkabout · Cities · Architecture · Islands · Favorites

China Series | All China Locations

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