Sunday, March 25, 2018

High up on Victoria Peak.

Victoria Peak.
Panoramic view from Victoria Peak.  The buildings of Hong Kong Island in the foreground, Kowloon in the distance. Use the horizontal scroll bar to pan to see the entire photo.

Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. Locally, it is simply known as The Peak. With an elevation of 552 meters (1,811 feet), it is the highest mountain on Hong Kong island. The summit is occupied by a radio telecommunications facility and is closed to the public. However, the surrounding area of public parks and high-value residential land is the area that is normally meant by the name The Peak.  It is a major tourist attraction that offers panoramic views of Central, Victoria Harbour, Lamma Island, and the surrounding islands.


You can arrive at The Peak either by bus or by tram.  Of course, we had to give the tram a try so from Man Mo Temple, we walked to the tram station.  It's quite a distance but Google Maps was able to get us there except for one short stretch where it was a bit confusing.  Since it was a Sunday, pretty much all the commercial establishments were closed, except for a few restaurants and other eateries, which was a bit of a shame because we could've done a bit of window shopping as we made our way to The Peak tram station.

By the time we arrived at the station, there was already a very long line of people queued up to enter. We took our spots and inched along with everyone else.


It was only as we neared the front of the line that we realized we were in the queue to by tickets.  Blame it on jetlag brain, but after a few seconds of thought, Bro brought up the fact that we did have our Octopus cards with us and perhaps those would get us in without having to be in this line.


So, we took a chance and left the line.  We walked up to the attendant manning the entry turnstiles and showed her our cards.  Sure enough, she let us through!  I'm loving this Octopus card.


Once inside the station, we joined yet another queue of people.  This was more line a small crowd of people.....not actual line.

Standing at the front of the group of people was another attendant.  He was in charge of the rope that prevented people from going any further.


After a few minutes, we watched the tram pull into the station. 


Once all the passengers had disembarked, the attendant lifted the rope and people made their way towards the tram.   By the time we made it to the front, the attendant put the rope back down so we would have to wait for the next tram. 



It was great having a *front row* seat to watch the tram pulling in.  Otherwise, no way I could've captured the photo below.  Too bad it's a little blurry.


In any case, the group before us boarded and then we were allowed to go onto the platform to wait for our tram.



We watched our tram pull into the station.



There are two sets of doors so you can board from the front of the tram or the back.  We entered on the front.  Again, I wasn't thinking straight because had I, we would've taken seats on the right side because that's the side with the view.  If you sit on the left, you literally just see the side of the mountain.  It was amazing that the doors closed with barely a handful of people standing which meant the attendant's estimate of how many people to let through the roped area was pretty darn accurate!  I'm thinking he's done this job for quite some time.


Doors closed and the tram chugged its way out of the station and up the hill.  All around us was lush greenery.  It was as if we had entered another world because just a short distance down the hill are nothing but concrete, steel and glass.


Soon, the angle of our ascent got steeper and steeper.  This was not a gentle uphill grade at all!



The tram did make a very brief stop part way up the hill so people could take photos but I was not in a good position at all so I refrained from taking a single shot other than of other people taking their photos.  Now you know why you need to get seats on the right side of the tram!


I would say the total ride time is somewhere around 10-15 minutes because before you know it, you've arrived at the other station which is housed inside a building called The Peak Tower.  Inside is is mainly shopping mall called The Peak Galleria.


Once we entered the mall itself, it wasn't clear where we had to go - we knew we had to get outside.  Normally, we would just follow the crowd but everyone scattered into different directions.  So, we found the information desk and they pointed us to the exit which is on the top floor.  For an additional fee, you can also pay to go out onto a higher level observation deck.  We took a look at just high much higher the observation deck is and came to the conclusion that for the extra 100 feet (guess on my part), the additional cost was not worth it.  However, supposedly you do get 360 degree views from there but in all honesty, it was such a hazy day today that I don't think a 360 view of anything would be all that great.  I have to say, I think the haze is really air pollution.  I wonder if the skies really are ever clear here.

The mall was packed with people and so was the area outside the galleria.  There is no escaping people in Hong Kong!

We followed the signs to the Lion's Pavilion which is a free viewing platform that offers up an excellent view of Kowloon, Victoria Harbor and the city of Hong Kong below.  The pavilion is just a short walk from The Peak Tower.

The Lion's Pavilion is traditional Chinese structure with a moon gate style entrance. As you enter, you'll find several rows of steps, which help distribute crowds across the viewing platform area so you actually can get into a good position to not only see the view but take as many photos as you wish.
Here is my *doctored up* (i.e., exposure and color enhanced) panoramic shot from Lion's Pavilion.


It is quite the view and it's no wonder why people come here to take night shots.  Even Bro, who rarely takes photos, got into the game.







Some of the best views are on the Peak Circle Walk, which winds around the highest point on Hong Kong Island.  The walk starts at The Peak Tower.  Follow the signs to Lugard Road.  Built in 1913–14, this road is named after Hong Kong’s 14th governor, Sir Fredrick Lugard. The sections that are narrow, cliff-side paths are called ‘plank roads’. After about 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at the Lugard Road lookout, which offers a spectacular panoramic view of Victoria Harbour.  That's where I took the panoramic photo that opens up this blog posting.

Lugard Road runs into Harlech Road, which will slowly take you back to The Peak Tower.  Supposedly, it only takes about 20 minutes to walk the entire route but I could've sworn it took us 3 times as long probably because we did take stops here and there to take in the view.  After a while though, you do lose the view.  Even so, the path seems to be very popular for people out for a stroll and the occasional jogger.

I could've also sworn that I took a lot of photos on our walk but for some reason, I only have one excluding the panoramic shot.  I guess I was too busy soaking in Mother Nature to bother with photos.  I have to admit, this is a really nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city that is situated just a short distance away.  It's no wonder that this is also a luxury residential area!  We did pass by a few houses on our walk - all situated behind secured gates and well hidden among the trees.  They must all have spectacular views though!


When we got back to The Peak Tower, we decided we had had enough.  We had the option to either take the tram back down or take the bus so we opted for the latter, taking Bus 15 which takes you back to the Star Ferry Pier in Central.   I have to say, the public buses here are fantastic - they are pretty much brand new so very modern and comfortable inside and best of all, they run often and rides are very reasonably priced!  With the Octopus card, riding them is a breeze.


As the bus pulled away from the stop, I fired up Google Maps so we could track the path of our ride.  We have to get off somewhere within easy walking distance to our next destination - the Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Time for a bit more Mother Nature!