Beating the crowds at Victoria Peak

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

I suppose I better come clean now and say that I never made it to Wan Chai. I've also been a pesky poor blogger, but we'll chalk that up to actually being out there and enjoying myself. As a traveller, I'm certain that it's my prerogative. However somewhere in the chaos of Phuket, I've managed to find myself some time for chillin' - time that doesn't involve simply existing or perhaps reading a book on the beach, more like sitting on the sun terrace in the bar of my hostel, sipping a sweet iced coffee - and I feel like I can just pick up where I left off. Right? Right.

I also suppose that I should admit that the little devil otherwise known as 'jetlag' well and truly beat me for at least a week. It just couldn't seem to be shaken. I'd spend one night up until 6:30am or with no sleep at all and then the next sleeping like a baby by 10pm. Every evening that I thought I'd got rid of it, it came back with a vengeance. On the morning that I headed to Victoria Peak, Hong Kong's best known viewpoint, I'd actually been wide awake the entire night. As soon at daylight hit I jumped up and into the shower, pulled on some clothes and got out that door just in time for the Pacific Coffee outlet around the corner from me to open at 7am. Ahh, Pacific Coffee - the Starbucks of East Asia. They do mighty fine americanos, I'll give them that. After two of those and a huge croissant I felt like I was sufficiently fuelled to be on my way to find the Star Ferry from Kowloon Pier over to Hong Kong Island, where my quest for Victoria Peak would begin!

Now, public transport in the whole of Asia is AWESOME. Especially those that involve either underground systems or boats. Infact, I feel like Britain's shambolic collective of delayed trains and overpriced buses are third world compared to the 40p tube journeys you can get in Taiwan, for example (and on beautiful, clean and tardy trains too!) Star Ferries are no exception, literally ferrying you across Victoria Harbour in no time at all for the equivalent of 21p a pop, and with a lovely view of the Hong Kong skyline thrown in too! The gorgeous skyscrapers still glistened even with grey clouds rolling in from behind the looming mountains. Once docked at the other side, I began to follow signs for the Peak Tram.

The Peak Tram, I guess, is essential to get to the top of Victoria Peak - unless you've got legs of steel and a whole lot of willpower. If the tram journey is anything to go by, then it's definitely the steepest ascent I've ever bore witness to. But it makes for some tantalising previews, seeing the skyscrapers suddenly make an appearance through thick foresty trees that adorn the mountain. Upon this sight, the people sat on the "wrong" side of the tram stood up to get a better look... and immediately regretted it, almost falling short to the 30% incline before they perched back on their backsides and waited patiently for the top. I'd definitely picked the right side of the trundling vehicle - and the right time to go on the tram too! At 8:20am, my tram held a total of 12 people and the queue at the ticket booth where I merrily handed over HKD$40 for my return tram (that's just £3.30 - an absolute steal!) was non-existent.

If you make it to the top this early, just be aware that while Victoria Peak is an out-and-out tourist destination with restaurants and shops and caf├ęs coming out of your ears, nothing will be open before 10am apart from the chain coffee shops. This is why I suggest that the best way to make the most out of your journey and costs is to simply soak it all up. Walk around the top, find different views, bring a book or some headphones to listen to some good tunes, and just take in the awesome view. Which, by the way, if you've ever perused photos of Hong Kong as much as I have over the years, is exactly how it looks in said images. It honestly looks like a painting!

I was enjoying the peak for about two-and-a-half hours before I made my way back down. By this time the top had begun to get overpopulated with group excursions and Chinese tourists and the peace that it had previously offered and become quite the opposite and very noisy! One super-steep journey down later and I was at the bottom once again, fighting my way through the 300-strong crowd queuing to get the tram to the top. I discreetly made rock-horns at nobody but myself, applauding my jetlag for once and being glad that I'd beaten the rush this time. Does this make me a savvy traveller or what?

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