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Hong Kong Hong Kong

17th March 2012

Walking Around The Peak, a Harbour Cruise and Feasting at The Jumbo Seafood Restaurant

Looking Across the Harbour to Kowloon From Victoria Peak
Densely Populated
Flowers on the Peak Trail
    As we descended in the hotel lift to the land of the 8 degree tilts below, we were joined by an American guy. He was on his own so I invited him to join us for breakfast.
    The chap was a Texan, and travelled frequently in his capacity as a sales rep for a company that sold radiation shielding for medical environments. He was keen to get our perception of America and its president. We gave our frank views, including scathing comments about a previous president.
    The chap considered Obama was quite eloquent, made interesting promises, but his weakness was he was young and didn't possess a wealth of experience. He would more than likely win the next election since the competition was asunder. He left us before we could continue the conversation since his Chinese contact had turned up in reception.
Looking Across to Stone Cutter's Island From Victoria Peak      (please use scroll bar)

Bank of China
International Finance Centre
    Since today was a much clearer day, Dan and I decided to make our way up to Victoria Peak. No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without visiting Victoria Peak. At 554m, it is Hong Kong Island's tallest hill, and thus the ideal place to take in a panoramic view encapsulating Hong Kong.
    We made our way down to the ferry terminal and joined a throng of people heading across to Central on the island.
    The walk from Central to the Peak Tram lower terminus was via a rabbit warren of overground and underground walkways, which traversed streets and passed through hotels and shopping arcades. There were no maps for such elevated walkways, and navigation became a landlubber's nightmare when vast shopping arcades, buzzing with thousands of people, totally confused the sense of direction.
Kowloon from Hong Kong Island      (please use scroll bar)

Contrasting Vessels
Hong Kong Island at Night
    Ever since the Europeans settled in Hong Kong, the Peak attracted prominent residents because of its panoramic view over the city and its temperate climate compared to the oppressive humidity and persistent mosquitoes in the city below (it is usually about 5�C cooler than lower levels). These original colonial administrators reached their homes after being transported for 3 hours in sedan chairs carried by coolies. This transportation drawback naturally limited development of the Peak. However, the opening of the Peak Tram funicular in 1888 cut the journey down to a mere 8 minutes. The resulting boost to accessibility created demand for residences on the Peak, and the plateau at 400m became a residential area. Between 1904 and 1930, the Peak Reservation Ordinance designated the Peak as an exclusive residential area reserved for non-Chinese. They also reserved the Peak Tram for the use of such passengers during peak periods. The Peak remains an upmarket residential area, although residency today is based on wealth. Property on the Peak is the most expensive real estate in the world.
Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
    After an hour of queuing, we boarded a tram and made an exhilarating climb up to the peak, climb being the operative word, at its steepest point the track has an angle of 45�. It reminded me very much of the many drives I have had over Hardknott Pass in the English Lake District. The views during the climb were impressive; a hint of what was to come.
    Upon reaching the upper terminus, we were confronted by a seven storied building in the shape of an anvil. This is the Peak Tower in which there are several attractions, namely: Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium, and the Peak Explorer Motion Simulator. The main interest for us here was the rooftop Sky Terrace viewing deck.
Emperor Dave
    Looking down at the city from this famous vantage point, we witnessed one of the greatest man made views on Earth. Victoria Harbour presented one of the world's busiest harbours, with a constant ebb and flow of shipping all year round. Row upon row of skyscrapers stood prominently on the Central District, which is Hong Kong's financial and economic hub. The most spectacular are the Bank of China Tower and the Central Plaza. The Bank of China Tower, with 72 stories soars skyward; the bamboo-shaped outlook of the tower symbolizing that the bank aspires to get better and better. The Central Plaza is a reinforced concrete building with 78 stories. The skyline is so improbable, audacious and lofty that Manhattan's looks provincial by comparison. The ever-expanding construction on Kowloon peninsula crept to the north, and beyond that the undulating hills of the New Territories stretched away to China. This was indeed a spectacular view; words cannot do it justice. Everything I'd heard about Hong Kong's restlessness and energy is dramatically reaffirmed by the view from the Peak.
    The actual peak summit is about 500m northwest of the tram terminus, at the top of the steep Mount Austin Road. The governor's mountain lodge near the summit was burned to the ground by the Japanese during World War II, but the gardens are still open.
    A must do on this pinnacle was a walk around the peak along the circular hike. This was a 3.5km footpath that snaked along the side of the peak; lush vegetation hemming the path in and overhanging banyan trees providing shade. Occasionally we came across a mansion on the way. The route afforded views of the Central District below, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon, and Aberdeen, the outlying islands and the South China Sea to the south.
    The slopes of the peak were covered in their own variety of "bush". Numerous birds flitted about in the trees, adding another new set of sounds for my ears to tune in to. A number of kites (the bird variety as opposed to the string and paper versions) soared around the peaks. I marvelled at how they rode the thermals, managing to ascend about 80m in just three revolutions above a hot spot.
    The trail was also a magnet for dog walkers, who would occasionally congregate in groups that I would define as mutual dog admiration gatherings. The trail is also popular at night, where folk can enjoy the pleasures of the constellations above and the colourful twinkling Milky Way below.
    We lingered for a while, feasting our eyes on the splendid views, before returning to Central to pick up a cruise boat that Dan had booked us on.
    Promptly at 6pm, a red and green traditional Chinese vessel pulled alongside a pier, and several groups boarded. We discovered we were part of the "Splendid" party; absolutely splendid.
Jumbo Dragon
    The boat slipped its moorings, and off we sailed to pick up more pirates over in Kowloon before starting our cruise around the harbour.
    We soon recognised other "Splendid" trippers by the orange stickers stuck to their chests. There was also a large contingency of noisy Americans with blue "Loud American" stickers. They were crammed around the on deck bar, demanding to know why it hadn't opened yet. "Wait until we have picked up the other passengers in Kowloon," was not the response they were willing to swallow.
    A young coloured girl, who went by the name of Hunter, was sitting on her own next to us, nervously stabbing at keys on her phone in an attempt to look preoccupied. "They are a bit loud, aren't they?" I said, nodding towards our US chums. She laughed, "Yes, Americans are always loud," and then I realised she was an American herself. "Are you with them?" I asked. "Yes," she said, "we are based in Japan in the navy. We sailed down to South Korea, and now we have a brief stay in Hong Kong."
    The bar was by now open, and I asked her if she would like a drink. She wasn't sure, she wasn't used to drinking. I got the impression she had never sampled the demon waters before. "I don't drink back home, I'm only 18, and drinking under the age of 21 is illegal," she explained. "I'm not sure how I'll feel after drinking alcohol," she added. I learned that she had grown up in Harlem, New York, and seemed to have led a sheltered life. She had never left New York until she joined the navy.
    I left her chatting with Dan while I got us each a drink, and on my return, got chatting with Jim, an elderly English fellow who was travelling with his wife to Melbourne to visit their daughter. "We were meant to have 3 days here," he told me, "but our plane had engine problems, and the resulting delays left us with only two days in Hong Kong. We are staying with some friends who are Chinese, and they are killing us with food overload, but they are looking after us and helping us to cram all we can into the time available."
Central District at Night From a Lookout      (please use scroll bar)

    "After Melbourne, we'll spend some time in New Zealand at a place north of Auckland called Witangi," he added. "You mean Waitangi" I enquired, "where the Treaty was signed?" "What's that?" he asked. I went on to explain all about the Treaty of Waitangi, and the subsequent repercussions. "How did you find out about that?" he asked with a puzzled expression on his face. "Well I did some research before visiting the country, and I also spent some time at Waitangi to learn more," I explained. He gave me a look as if to say, "What sort of nerd are you?" I just don't understand how some people can travel a very long distance to visit places without reading up on their destination. Perhaps I am a nerd.
    We cruised around the harbour as the sun was setting and the whole scene was transformed into a marvellous spectacle of walls of light. It was the time when ocean going ships slipped their moorings, and a couple glided past us lit up like floating Christmas trees.
    A hidden voice from the depths of our boat occasionally blurted out a commentary, but the Chinese lilt was distorted by the tannoy system rendering it impossible to decipher what was being said. It could have been "Abandon Ship" for all we knew.
More Bright Neon Lights
    Our cruise came to an end and we docked into Central again, where the "Splendid" team were rounded up by Ivy, and we were herded onto a waiting coach. Ivy was a young Chinese woman, who spoke excellent English, and possessed a bubbly personality and an abundance of humour.
    As part of the cruise deal that Dan had organised, a nine course meal on the famous large floating Jumbo seafood restaurant was included. Our coach whisked us through the concrete jungle around to the west of the island to Aberdeen where the restaurant was located. Here, Ivy corralled us onto a small boat that ferried us out to the humongous floating craft ablaze with lights, dragons and lanterns.
    The restaurant was like a palace, full of glitz and marble stairs. How did it float? We were guided up the stairs into a vast dining room full of circular tables. Ivy had already worked out a seating plan, and Dan and I were sat at a table with an Indian family who lived in Holland, an Indonesian lad, and a drunken couple from Brisbane. I had the pleasure of sitting next to the latter. The Aussies were loud, and the chap, Denver, was extremely cack-handed. At one point I ended up with his food on the back of my hand; whether it was from his chopsticks or out of his mouth I'll never know. Then he dropped his chopsticks on the floor; bad luck shall greet him advised Ivy. I did learn a lot about Australian Rugby League though, whether I wanted to or not.
    The seafood meal was delicious, though oddly nobody touched the broccoli. At the end, we took turns to sit in the emperor's seat for a photo.
    On our way back to the city we stopped off at a lookout point for a magnificent view onto the neon world on the island and across to its counterpart on Kowloon, an unforgettable sight.
    The coach took us through one of the three harbour tunnels back to Kowloon, where Dan and I decadently indulged in a couple of cocktails at the top of the tall building at One Peking Street.
    We were greeted into the bar by a tall woman with neat, short, blond hair, who seemed to hold a position of responsibility. "Like your shirt," she said to me, with a pleasant smile. "Why, because it's got New Zealand printed on it?" I asked. "Yes," she laughed, as she sat us down at a table. Later in the evening she checked to see if things were going well with us, and we learned that she came from Auckland, hence her appreciation of my shirt.
    The cocktails were good, the lighting dim, and the music was loud and repetitive. I was glad to leave in the end and return to my bed.

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Uploaded from Ipswich on 28th March at 01:00

Last updated 28.3.2012