Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hong Kong Part 3 – Hong Kong Island

Once again we took the MTR to get to Hong Kong Island. From the Tsim Sha Tsui station, we boarded the train bound for  Central station (red line). We were headed to Victoria Peak (also known simply as The Peak), the highest point on Hong Kong Island. We decided to take the Peak tram. From Central we walked to the Peak tram lower terminal on Garden Road; the streets were noticeably steep and we got a good aerobic workout.

Peak Tram lower terminal

The Peak Tram track is almost 1.4 km long and it takes the tram about 7 minutes to complete a one-way trip. The climb is rather steep (about 373 meters) and the buildings we passed appeared to be leaning. We got off at the upper tram terminal located at The Peak Tower. From there we went to the Lion's Pavilion viewpoint from where we had a great view of the Victoria harbor, Kowloon, the green hillsides and the city below. We also took a short walk in Pok Fu Lam Country Park.

Peak Tram and view from tram

Lion's Viewpoint Pavillion

Walk in the park

There are other locations which provide magnificent views; there is the viewing terrace at the Peak Galleria and the Sky Terrace 428 at the Peak Tower. The Peak Tower is a wok-shaped building housing shops, restaurants, entertainment venues,  and the upper terminal of the Peak Tram. The Sky terrace 428 is the highest viewing platform; it stands 428 meters above sea level. Madame Tussaud’s Hong Kong is located at Level 1 of the Peak Tower.

Peak Tower and the Sky Terrace 428

View from the Peak Tower escalator

Peak Market at the Peak Tower

Madame Tussaud's Hong Kong

From The Peak, we descended via the Peak Tram and walked to the other attractions around the city. It was challenging to walk up and down the inclined roads. Fortunately Hong Kong has the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the Central Mid-levels escalator; it is actually a series of small escalators that move in only one direction. There are stairs alongside the escalator so people can also go in the opposite direction. When we got on the escalator, it was moving up; they change the direction at specific times (06:00 to 10:00, downwards; 10:00 to 22:00, upwards).

We took the escalator up the hill, planning to get got off on the streets that we wanted to explore. We passed by SoHo (South of Hollywood Road). SoHo has an international mix of cafes, restaurants and bars. We got off at Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Row (also known as "Cat Street"); here there are antique shops and curio street markets. The Man Mo Temple nearby has giant incense coils hanging overhead and the smoke and scent can be overpowering; there are several electric fans running in order to aid air circulation.

Hollywood Road and Cat Street

Man Mo Temple

We were curious to see another item on our list, the Western Market. It was quite a distance from Hollywood Road, and we got  a bit confused (I think we were walking around in circles). We finally found the red brick Edwardian-style building that had been converted into a shopping complex. The architecture was nice but there was not really much to see in terms of merchandise since they were about to close.

Model of the Western Market; inside the market

There were two activities going on in line with the Hong Kong mid-autumn festival: the Lee Kum Kee Lantern Wonderland and the Fire Dragon Dance. We went to see the lanterns first; the main attraction was the giant fish-shaped lantern made up of many small lanterns. The fish was color red but during the show, it changed to different hues.

Lantern Wonderland

We then walked to the place where the fire dragon dance was to be held. There were lots of people in the streets and there were also people gathered around a building. The crowd was thick and we could not really see what was going on. People had their cameras raised overhead and were clicking away; I did the same; I got a photo of the dragon’s tail (I think).  When the crowd started moving, we followed along; we stopped when they did. At the plaza we waited with the crowd. The dragon was apparently dancing through various streets before coming to the plaza. We waited a long time but never got to see the fire dragon since we had to catch the train back to Kowloon. Well at least I have a picture of its tail.

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