Day five was mostly a town day– Yvonne and I met with yet more of her family for a massive Dim Sum lunch that took over three hours and left me so full that I couldn’t stand up straight. Apparently, if someone puts food on your plate, it’s rude not to eat it. I didn’t realize this, but I tend to eat whatever is put on my plate anyway, and Yvonne’s uncle was very enthusiastic about having me finish a mountain of food. Cuttlefish, sticky rice, beef leg, rice noodles, dumplings, and on and on and on.
|The least crowded viewpoint we could find at The Peak.|
By the time we left the restaurant, it was late in the afternoon, and we didn’t have much of any plans. So we decided to do the most touristy thing we could do for the evening– head to The Peak. The Peak is one of the tallest mountains on Hong Kong island, and home to some of the richest people in the area. Note that Hong Kong is geographically divided up into different regions– Hong Kong itself is a small island, Lantau is a large island, and The New Territories and Kowloon are part of the mainland. Hong Kong island is the wealthy economic center (I think of it as something like Manhattan), and the others are where most of the population resides. All of the regions are jam packed with skyscrapers and people (with Lantau being the least densely populated), and all of them are mountainous, with peaks as high as around 1000 meters.
|There were these wonderful tourist maps pretty much everywhere in Hong Kong. The legend on the side (cut out by my camera) is even more helpful in choosing where to go.|
Anyway, back to The Peak. You can get up to The Peak either by road, or by The Peak Tramway, which is the touristy way to get up there. We chose the tramway. It’s something like the Cog Railway up Mount Washington, in that it’s a sort of train that climbs steeply up the mountain, but there are about a hundred times more people waiting in line to go up. We waited in line for close to 45 minutes before climbing into the train for the ten-minute ride, which climbed up at a 45 degree angle for much of the ride. Pretty entertaining, I’d say.
|Looking down at Lamma Island. That mountain on the left looks really nice to me…|
At the top, we unloaded into a tourist-trap nightmare of souvenir shops and shopping centers. We had a nice view over the city, albeit pretty cloudy for the second day in a row. But it wasn’t long before I was pretty sick of the crowds. One of Hong Kong’s four long-distance hiking trails starts near The Peak and heads up to the island’s actual high point, Victoria Peak. We missed the Hong Kong Trail, but were easily able to find the road leading up to Victoria Peak instead. Within minutes, the crowds disappeared, and we walked along a steep and forested mountain road.
|An old garden converted to a city park near Victoria Peak.|
Not long after, we found that we couldn’t access the actual summit of Victoria Peak, but there was a nice park near the top with fine views to the south and west. Apparently, much of the peak had been the home of the colonial governor of the island until World War 2, when the mansion was destroyed. The gardens and views, however, remain today as a park that seems to get relatively little use compared to the touristy and commercialized madness just down the road. It was a nice escape, to be able to relax a bit above the city. Below we could see hundreds of tankers entering and exiting the harbor, dozens of skyscrapers filled with people in the city, ferries shuttling the population around the islands. I find it amazing that in such a massive city, there is such easy access to relatively wild places.
|A little before sunset from Victoria Peak. So many tankers in the harbor!|
On the way back down to The Peak, we passed several ritzy high rises where many of the rich folks live. Behind the gates to the parking areas were several Lexuses, BMWs, Mercedes– I even saw a Rolls and a Lamborghini. I guess it’s normal for big cities to have a huge gap between the wealthy and poor, but I was just able to see it so much more in Hong Kong than other places I’ve been. Most of the apartments I’d visited were homes for average families, and made my college dorm rooms seem spacious. And then there were these luxurious condos on the hill.
|And now looking toward Lantau Island. So many more tankers in the harbor!|
For the trip down from the hill, we opted for a bus rather than waiting for the tram. Big mistake. The winding road took much longer to navigate, and left both of us carsick. On the upside, it did put us near Central Hong Kong, which is a very westernized part of the city. This was a good thing because it allowed us to get a salad for dinner, which offset the massive lunch we’d had earlier. So much dense food in the past few days has stretched my stomach out quite a bit.