The Famous Victoria Peak
While I was still in Dubai and was telling my friends that I would be visiting Hong Kong, they all recommended that I check out the Peak. So naturally, The Peak was on my list of top attractions and I made sure that I would see it before heading back home. Thinking that it would be a smart decision, I decided to visit the Peak on a Monday morning to avoid the crowds as the trip web site reviews suggested. What I didn’t take into consideration though, was the fact that the Monday that I chose for my “Peak” visit, happened to be the last day of the year. Yes, it was the 31st of December 2012. And just like me, almost every tourist in Hong Kong had decided to check out the Peak on that very special day 🙂
I arrived to the Peak Tram Station at around 10:30 in the morning. To my surprise, the queue for the ticket window extended all the way to the street. So you had to walk for some time to figure out where the line ends so you could join it. As we all waited and slowly advanced in line, some of us were getting coffee from the nearby café or waiting in a shaded area until their family members or friends got closer to the ticket counter. It was a sunny yet windy day. Luckily, I was wearing a winter hat that day and was able to get some shade from the cap attached to my hat.
When I finally reached the beginning of the tram line, it was already 1 o’clock! There was some sort of fight to get on the train, and there was no one organizing the order by which people boarded the cable car. This led to a lot of chaos and rude looks and comments from other tourists.
To be honest, I was greatly disappointed by what I saw when I made my way up to the sky terrace. Which is the highest level that you can reach to see the Victoria Peak. Let me make it more clear; I personally didn’t think that the view was worth the two and a half hour wait to take the train! What you would see basically was the Hong Kong city sky line that includes the sky scrapers and modern high-rise buildings. In addition to the green natural surroundings of the area. To me, it wasn’t a view to die for. Maybe I had seen more beautiful natural and artificial views in my life. Having lived in Leysin, Switzerland at an extremely high altitude where I could literally see the clouds beneath me from my dorm room terrace, I wasn’t the slightest bit amused by the Victoria Peak view.
Nevertheless, having waited all that time to get up here, I had to snap as many pictures as I could. And of course ask random people to take my picture as well! But the drama doesn’t end here. I was surprised to find another queue greeting me at the station to take the tram back to the ground level. Thankfully, it was only a twenty minute wait this time.
I was delighted to exit the Peak madness and go back to Kowloon for my next attraction for that day: Kowloon Park.
Kowloon Park is more like a community park where the locals and residents of the area go to relax, have their lunch or practice tai chi. The park is considered a hidden gem as its location requires you to make a slight turn from Nathan Road. So if you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t guess that there would be a park in the area. I think what makes this park listed as one of the top attractions in the city is its wide range of things to do and see. You wouldn’t see a flamingo pond in your local park, would you? And I don’t mean one or two birds swimming in a pond. This one had a flock of birds flapping their wings and posing for pictures 😉
There’s a beautiful bird sanctuary with colorful and pretty birds, a statue garden, a small maze and an observation deck.
Crossing to the other end of the park takes you to the Harbour City area. Where a large shopping mall with the same name would be a good place to spend a few hours. More so if you happen to visit during the holiday season, when all the sales are on. Since shopping wasn’t a concern for me at this particular trip, I opted for a soup dinner. Finding non-authentic Chinese food in Kowloon is like finding water in the desert! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a salad and sandwich place. But my greed and curiosity made me decide to look around the mall for something better. Before returning to that shop an hour or so later only to find out that they are closing early because it was the 31st of December. So all I could have was what was left of the soup of the day. It was a soup with shredded chicken. And let me tell you this: I have never had soup with such a huge appetite in my life! It had been a few days since my stomach ache and I had to go on a strict diet of bananas and yogurt. So for me to actually find a place that serves healthy western-type food and to be able to taste some real food after my days of starvation, was a real revelation.
It was almost time for the year to end. I was a few hours away from the new year. I was in Hong Kong; the city of lights. And my hotel was within walking distance from Victoria Harbour. So you would think that I wouldn’t think twice about going to the harbour to see the fire works that night? Well you are absolutely wrong! I can’t recall how many times I have changed my mind back and forth about going alone to the harbour to see the New Year fire works! Mainly because my local friend had warned me about the extraordinary crowds and the long hours it would take me to get back to my hotel if I decided to go to the harbour. As much as I didn’t like the idea of being stuck in the NYE crowd and the abnormally busy streets of Kowloon, I knew that I didn’t fly all the way from Dubai to Hong Kong during the holiday season to spend my New Year’s Eve at the hotel. So I gathered all the courage in the world (or Hong Kong for that matter would be enough since it’s such a busy city) and headed out of the hotel – after asking the reception staff if it would be a great risk for me to go out to the streets on NYE – and made my way to the legendary Victoria Harbour. The streets were closed off so that people could walk in them and take pictures. No cars were allowed to go through the streets for the night. We had to take different routes to get to the harbour. When I finally got there, I found out that the area where the fire works would be taking place was closed with barriers, and police officers were standing on the spot. It was around 10:30 pm and the area was already packed with the New Year celebratory crowd so they weren’t letting in any more people. Looking at the time and thinking if I really wanted to hang around for a couple of hours and possibly get stuck in the crowd when it was time to go back to my hotel, I decided to make a wise decision and call it a night and walk back safely to my hotel. On my way to the harbour, I did get to witness an Indian community group parade, local teenagers in New Year costumes and accessories, a young band performance, and almost everyone having their picture taken in the middle of the closed down light-filled streets.
While I didn’t get to celebrate or ring in the new year in Hong Kong style, or attend the hotel’s NYE dinner party which I found out about the next day, or watch the world-famous fire works at Victoria Harbour (or even on TV!), I am grateful for the many privileges that I have in my life. One of them being the opportunity to visit a far-eastern country for the first time, and experience the thrills associated with exploring a new destination and culture.
Although I am almost two months late, but I would still like to wish all of you: A very happy and adventurous new year!
Waiting Time Sign Board at the Peak Tram Queue
A View from The Peak Terrace
Post A Letter to your Loved Ones at The Peak
Flamingo Birds at Kowloon Park
Bird Sanctuary at Kowloon Park
Shredded Chicken Soup!
View from Harbour City Mall’s Terrace
The Peninsula Hotel Christmas Lights
Local Band Performance on NYE
Pedestrian-only NYE Streets