Sunday, May 27, 2012

[Tourist] Day 11: Central Hong Kong - Peak to Harbor

Do I really even need to say that I woke up at 4:30? No? We can just assume that, you say? Make it so, Number One.

Well let's not be too hasty - I did not, in fact, just wake up and go to breakfast as per usual. I actually went to the gym for the first time all trip. The place was completely deserted as you might expect at 5 AM. Typical gym things followed (including my mistaking pounds for kilograms when selecting weights to lift - whoops).

After that I had another wonderful breakfast in the Regency Club and I was on my way. Today's goal was simple: do the number one tourist thing in Hong Kong and go to the Peak. Anything else would be gravy.

I took the Ferry over to the Hong Kong side and tried to follow my map to the Peak tram terminus. I should say a bit about my system for navigating Hong Kong. Technology is a wonderful thing. I don't have routine internet access when out and about as my phone is set to airplane mode to avoid massive data charges. But I managed to get two different guidebooks in PDF form along with a bunch of maps of Hong Kong also as PDFs. It took a while to get them into my phone and readable on iBooks but it's been wonderful since.

Unfortunately all of my maps absolutely sucked when it came to getting me from the Ferry to the tram. It's not their fault as they are two-dimensional. Perhaps if I had 3-D maps on some sort of Nintendo 3DS/Google Maps mashup device it would have been okay. But I needed to not just be going northwest but also to be going up.

One of the charming things about Hong Kong as a major city, in case you couldn't tell from all of my photos documenting such, is that it is terraced into the hillside. Since this was my first day really wandering around what would be considered downtown Hong Kong, I quickly learned that I needed to take elevation into account. All told it took about 30 minutes to find the tram even though it would only take me 15 to go a similar distance on the way back.

Arriving early on a Monday morning meant absolutely no line, which was wonderful. Ben at One Mile at a Time had reported an hour-long wait during his recent visit and I don't have the patience for waiting. The next tram was due in any minute so I stood by where the front of the tram would be located once it came in. As I was standing there, a huge group of tourists - most of them American by the accents - came into the tram station being led by a tour guide. I let the guide and a few of them on ahead of me and as a reward I got to hear him tell them to sit on the right side (facing forward) for the only good views. Score!

Tram, tram, tram, tram, trammity tram

I ended up sitting next to an older gentleman from Ohio on the ride up. We had a great conversation about fracking and the future of shipping and logistics. What? It really was a great conversation. Look, when you go 23.5 out of every 24 hours not talking to anyone or hearing anything in the language you're used to, you don't say no to a conversation with a retired aerospace engineer about fracking.

Soon enough we hit the Peak. The views on the ride up were incredible but those from the Peak were even more fantastic. I've never seen anything like it. You are looking down on this massive city but because it is so compact, you can really see everything like it is a miniaturized model of Hong Kong.

I really hope you like skyscrapers because this update's chock full of 'em
You've been warned

This is skyscrapers but also a wooden railing. Fancy, eh?

I planned on taking a stroll around one of the paths but I had worked up quite a thirst in the brief search for the tram station so I went and bought a bottle of water. Since that got finished in 30 seconds I followed it with a bottle of VLT - iced tea with very low sugar. Not quite diet, but I'll take it.

The Peak was full with tourists. For just about the only time in Hong Kong I didn't look a bit out of place. I found this quite alcove off to the side of the trail and I spent some time there looking down on Hong Kong and doing some self-reflection. To my eternal credit all I could think of at the time was "it's a great big universe, and we're all really puny. We're just tiny little specks about the size of Mickey Rooney". Good to know that even in the depths of contemplation, Animaniacs will be there for me.

I enjoyed the people watching for quite a bit, too. I watched a couple from somewhere in the Deep South take each others picture and then try and position themselves so that they could use their giant fancy camera to take a photo of the two of them. Except he was trying to hold it away from himself and point it back at them like you might do with a cameraphone. Didn't work so well with a massive SLR. So I gave them a hand and took their photo. Hopefully it came out well.

Clearly I put this in here because I appreciate Hong Kong's attempts to be green and you can't prove otherwise

Tour guide describing the IFC building: it's the one that looks like a men's disposable razor. Not the look they were going for, I suspect.

Oh my god white people! I must be in a tourist area.

Very low taste would be more accurate

Hell, even I'm getting sick of them at this point

How much must those houses cost?

This butterfly landed on my shoulder. I expected Snow White to start singing after that.

Logan. Jared. You are immortalized now. Well done. God damn kids!

Before heading back down the tram I stopped in the 7-eleven for more water. An elderly gentleman asked me for help trying to work out the prices in dollars. There are precious few times in this world where my natural affinity for doing basic arithmetic quickly and accurately in my head pays off - but working out tips and currency conversion are about it. Thankfully HKD to USD is pretty straightforward. He was pleasantly surprised at how cheap drinks were at the 7-eleven.

On returning to the streets of Hong Kong I spent the next hour or two just wandering around, looking at buildings and taking photos. I put the guidebook away and just went where my feet took me, figuring there was really nowhere I could end up in that part of Hong Kong in midday that would be troublesome.

Park located somewhere in the middle of Hong Kong. Supremely random and very welcome.

Fancy HSBC headquarters

Could you imagine a major bank HQ in NYC that allowed tents to be set up in their lobby?

Avenge my death Kimba, um, I mean Simba

When the best you can do to advertise your tournament is to point out that a club that barely avoided relegation and just fired their manager will be attending maybe it's time to call the whole thing off?

Oh. An escalator. We have those in America.

Oh. The world's longest series of escalators. We don't have those.
I'm in a Jet Li movie!

Shortly after I took this photo, they sold the building to recoup their billions of dollars in losses from that rogue trader. Okay, not really, but a fella can dream.

Which one of these is not like the other?

This shrine came out of nowhere. It's like "apartment building, skyscraper, 7-eleven, another 7-eleven, shrine, 7-eleven...wait, shrine?"

By shortly after midday I'd had my fill and returned to the hotel. I took yet another nap, which might be the root cause of my waking up at 4 AM, and then did some trip report work and general laying about.

At 5:30 I headed up to the Regency Club for an evening snack. 

Very delicious!

Not even remotely good for me

My goal for the evening was to head down to the Avenue of the Stars along the harbor to watch the Symphony of Lights show. I'd like to tell you that it was some awesome, breathtaking experience. But really it was just a bunch of building with a few lights on them and some lasers. Sorry to be jaded on that, but when you've seen the Osborne Family Festival of Lights, even a massive skyline done up in a few lights and choreographed to music isn't going to cut it. Bah humbug get off my lawn you damn kids today with your cell phones and your hipping and your hopping and the jello pudding pops.

Yup, time to end this entry. After the lights show I headed back to the hotel and went to sleep. Another successful day of being a tourist in Hong Kong.

I loved the way the sky came out in these photos

The only junk still sailing the Harbor daily

My favorite photo of the day. It's like nature's saying "that's a pretty show and all, but anything you can do, I can do better".


  1. Beautiful pictures and great reporting. Thanks Gooner.

    Looking forward to the next installments.

    You may need to go to the gym 4-5 times as you've got some Amazing food coming up on your flights and lounges.

    Thanks Again,


    1. The Asiana flight from ICN to FRA was the absolute best of my life. I was the only passenger in F. The food. My god. They could feed half of Seoul with the amount of food they give one passenger. It's a bad sign that by the time I cleared security in Frankfurt I no longer had to rush to put my belt back on because my pants no longer needed the support. I regret nothing!