I spent Labor Day weekend 2013 in Hong Kong, and I really enjoyed it. Hong Kong was on my Asian travel list for years, and now I was finally able to go there. The city both seemed very familiar and interestingly exotic. I live in Seoul, so I’m not oblivious to the interesting dynamics of large Asian cities. And at times, parts of Hong Kong (particularly in Kowloon) reminded me of some of the narrow streets of different Chinatowns of large American cities. And other times (like in the Central district of Hong Kong Island), the city could be any large city with a financial district, like New York City. But even more than Seoul or Tokyo, I was struck by the sheer amount of population density in Hong Kong. Mind you, the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area has around 25 million people (roughly 50% of the population of South Korea), but it didn’t feel as tightly confined as Hong Kong. Maybe it’s because the urban sprawl of Seoul seems greater and the clusters of high rises are more spread out, whereas everything in Hong Kong is closely packed together.
One of the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of Hong Kong is ascend to The Peak, which is the tallest hill in Hong Kong. It’s also one of hte most exclusive neighborhoods in Hong Kong, with mansion and apartments that cost an arm and a leg. There are a few ways to get to the top, but one of the quickest (in terms of ride length, and ignoring the wait in line) and most interesting is to take the tram.
The Peak tram has been in operation for over 120 years, though the trams themselves have been upgraded over the years. It is HK $28 to ascend to the top, and HK $12 dollars to descend. If you don’t have an Octopus Card, or previously purchased tickets, you have to purchase them on site, but the ticket office is reached during the wait to actually get on the train. The tram can fit approximately 120 people on each trip, both standing and sitting, though I REALLY don’t recommend you choose to be one of the ones who stands for the trip. The trip may be only approximately eight minutes, but the ascent feels nearly vertical at times. Trust me, you are going to want to sit down and enjoy the view (sit on the right side of the tram on the ascent to see the best view in my opinion). I decided to get to the top of The Peak about 90 minutes before sunset to fully enjoy a day view and then be around to take advantage of a full night view. The wait for the tram really was only about 30 minutes, and that was when the line was pretty long.
In any case, once you get to the top, you have a variety of options. You’ll disembark in the large, multi-floored Peak Tower. You can go to the top of the mall to the Sky Terrace, which costs HK $35 for the view. If the cost just doesn’t do it for you, there is a free observation desk next to the mall. It’s at a lower level, but the view is still nice (as you’ll see from my night pictures). It was really cool to just stand up there and take in the full view of the northern side of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon across Victoria Harbor. It really makes you appreciate just how dense the population is in Hong Kong.
The observation deck is not quite on the exact top of The Peak, but the actual peak tends to attract clouds. Even while I was there, dark clouds were lurking about and threatening to pour out some rain (as you can see in the dark clouds in some of the pictures above), but the weather stayed clear while I was up there.
After fully admiring the day view, I took a short walk around the top. There are pedestrian roads around the top that enables you to see the other side of Hong Kong Island, and also enjoy the thick foliage.
There are plenty of stores and restaurants on top, along with such tourist “attractions” like Madame Toussard’s. But after enjoying some ice cream, I just patiently waited for it to get dark and was rewarded with a very beautiful night view. The lights of Hong Kong really do shine bright at night.
You descend The Peak the same way you ascended and an eight minute tram ride later, you are back at sea level. The Peak tram is open from 7am to midnight, so there is ample opportunity to see it. Assuming the weather is clear, this is definitely a not-to-be-missed view. It really is the best way to take in the full view of Hong Kong below you.