Exploring Hong Kong Part 2 – Victoria Peak tram
After a failed attempt at taking the Peak Tram back in July (it was a Saturday and I couldn’t even people that day), I figured I may as well have another go at it during the week. Fortunately, when I arrived, it was only about a 20 minute waiting time to get on the tram.
Let me say – the Victoria Peak tram is pretty spectacular. Back in the day, the first British settlers used to hire sedan chairs or walk up to the Peak – the highest point in Hong Kong. Then, they would take rickshaws up. Finally, when the Peak tram opened, the sedan chair carriers and rickshaw pullers got a break from these people who needed to get up that hill by the sweat of their brows. The Peak was quite the fashionable housing area as well, so the best views of the city were granted to the rich folks. No surprise there.
The tram looked delightfully old-fashioned, and it runs one way up and one way down with different road stops. I was not prepared, however, for the suddenness of the very steep climb up the hill, whereupon my back was forced by gravity against the wooden seat, and God help me if anyone stood up. I would have fainted straightaway. Due to a trick of the eye, the buildings appear to “tilt” forward even though they are clearly (and engineeringly) 90 degrees to the ground.
During the steepest section, the bloody tram STOPS. It just hangs out and all the other people were like, “Heyyy, that’s so cool how the buildings are tilting!” and I’m all like, “Please God, don’t let this be the one time in the tram’s history (it opened in 1888) that it decides to break!”
I don’t think I started breathing again until it began to move upwards once more.
Once at the top, a barrage of modern cafes, restaurants, and shops (along with loads of tourist kitsch) opened up. I beelined to Pacific Coffee, which boasts magnificent views of the skyline from the Peak. I marveled at how “tall” my latte seemed to be in comparison to the Bank of China building.
The Peak is the wettest and most biodiverse spot in Hong Kong because it gets a lot of rain and cool cloud cover. Therefore, if you walk the trails (Hong Kong Trail being very popular), you’ll take in beautiful tropical butterflies, all sorts of wild insects, interesting plants, and maybe some other flora and fauna. It was a fantastically sunny day, and I was barraged by butterflies the size of my palm more often than tourists. I’ll take butterflies over tourists any day, really.
I did some short circuits around the paths to find the best views, but one of the best (minus the Skydeck experience) is the lovely Pavilion, which overlooks the city without any trees in the way. Once I was down the path, away from the crowds, I could only hear birds and rustling leaves. It was amazingly quiet up on the Peak – just a breath away from the heartbeat of Hong Kong below.
Making your way down on the tram means going into reverse. That was a strange sensation. However, it was much less unsettling than going up.
Recommended: Check out the Tram History Gallery as you wait in line to board the tram. It’s really interesting – all about Asia’s first funicular railway. And you know how much I love to funiculate (Funiculate (v.) – To ride a funicular)…