Hong Kong in six hours

In Kipp Report, Published journalism, Travel on February 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm

A Kipp travel tip to seeing the city from above

Originally published on Kipp Report, August 2009

If you find yourself, as Kipp did recently, with some time to spare in the South East Asian travel hub that is Hong Kong airport, why not get out and see a little of the city? More specifically, why not head up to the Peak (it’s also called Victoria Peak, but everyone drops the first name) and see a lot of the city, from above? Kipp decided to do just that, and here’s what we found:

Give yourself six hours to get there, have a look around and get back to the airport.

Remember to fill in an immigration form on the flight, as though you were ending your trip in Hong Kong. You’ll be able to leave the airport through immigration with just a stamp in your passport.

Change some money, follow signs for the Airport Express, and buy a same-day return ticket to Hong Kong Station from the machine (or the counter), which will cost you around HKD100. That sounds like a lot, but as you get just over two Hong Kong dollars to the dirham, you’re looking at less than AED 50.

Hop on the train (it’s very clean, comfortable and efficient), watch the monster tower blocks roll by, and hop off at the end of the line.

Now follow signs to the Star Ferry Piers. You’ll walk along a big walkway towards the sea. As you descend from the walkway at the base of the piers, look for bus number 15C. It should be open-topped, and will cost you HKD 4.20 (there’s no change available) for a 10-minute meander through a forest of skyscrapers to the Peak Tram Station at the base of the Peak. This is where the fun starts.

Make the most of your time in the long queue by watching tourists from the region photograph everything in sight – including each other next to Jackie Chan, as there is a wax model of the martial artist beside the ticket office for Madame Tussauds.

Kipp didn’t fancy seeing more of Tussauds at the top, but it’s worth buying a combined Peak Tram Sky Pass, which will take you to the top of the hill and give you access to the Sky Terrace platform with the best views of the city below.

A quaint, old-fashioned tram is winched up the hill at angles of up to 27 degrees. That’s impressively steep, but probably a lot less hazardous than the sedan chairs that conveyed visitors up before the tramline was introduced in 1888.

After a ten-minute climb, the tram stops and you alight straight into the Peak Tower shopping mall, with no shortage of eateries and souvenir stalls.

Stock up on fans, tea, copies of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book, and bizarre fridge magnets (“You are my love my angel don’t treat me like potato,” “No smoking I will crazy”). Or get a soapstone seal carved with your name in Chinese.

Find your way out of the building, and take a wander along some of the trails round the peak. On one side you will be able to see the massed skyscrapers (and perhaps feel a pang of homesickness if you are from Dubai) of the most vertical city in the world. On the other, you can watch ships head out to sea past the Pok Fu Lam reservoir, which supplies much of Hong Kong’s drinking water.

Head up to the Sky Terrace to get even better views. If you are at the peak in the evening, wait till the sun has set to see the city by night, lit up in all its splendor (your ticket will only allow you onto the Terrace once).

Then grab something to eat. All tastes are catered for, from steak houses to fast food outlets to the heavily branded Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. There’s even a Chinese restaurant. Pushed for time, though, Kipp decided to stop at Hong Kong Day for a glass of yuanyang, a local specialty that’s a combination of milk tea and coffee – perfect for the indecisive – and a slice of toast slathered in peanut butter and condensed milk. Apparently this is the most typically Hong Kong food on the Peak.

To get back to the airport, simply find the tram station to go down (it’s outside the building) and retrace your steps. Back on the bus, see if you can catch a glimpse of Hong Kong trendies going into the Bathing Ape store to buy some expensive copies of those t-shirts sold in street markets round the world.

The journey each way should take less than two hours, and a couple of hours is plenty of time to see a snapshot of the skyscraper city from above.


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