The ride in itself was quite an experience, but it wasn’t until I had a good look of Victoria Harbor that I knew I had done what I came to Hong Kong for.
My first trip to Hong Kong was almost perfect. I was able to cross out all the items on my must-visit list except one thing — Victoria Peak. So when an opportunity to return came knocking on my door, I knew exactly the first thing I would do.
At 552m, Victoria Peak (or Mount Austin) is the highest point in Hong Kong Island. (Tai Mo Shan, at 957m, is far taller and is the highest in the entire territory.) Rising on the western end of the island, it offers the best and the most breathtaking views of the iconic Victoria Harbor, one of the world’s finest and busiest. No other place that is easily accessible can be a better vantage point for witnessing the vibrance and the energy of this Asian metropolis, especially at night. Its actual summit is closed to the public but the surrounding residential area and parks are what the moniker “The Peak” refers to today.
The Peak Tram
It was mid February, and my jacket was no match to the biting cold that permeated it. But staying outside could not be helped. I was standing at the far end of a very long queue that snaked around a building next to the Peak Tram Station, the main gateway to Victoria Peak, or more simply “The Peak.” Thankfully, this snake moved faster than I expected. By sundown, I was already in front of the ticket counter, holding my fresh tickets that would allow me to board the tram and access the viewing deck atop the mountain.
The Peak Tram is an essential part of the whole Peak experience. There are many ways of reaching the viewpoint, but there’s a reason crowds flock around the Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus. The ride itself, albeit short, was remarkable. I stood at the very back of the packed tram for there were no empty seats left. As the tram crawled up to the peak, the force made me lean on the wall behind me and get a good grip on one of the hand rails. The windows played a series of surreal images that looked strangely attractive. Our angle made everything outside look tilted and skewed, as though they were falling on us. The lights leaking through the windows of the residential buildings gave us a glimpse into the daily lives of the occupants. It was a weird experience. Simple joys.
These trams have been around for more than 120 years. Before its opening, locals and visitors relied on walking or the sedan chair, a windowed cabin carried by two porters (like a boss!). But as more and more people chose to live in the areas surrounding the peak, the demand for a better form of transportation grew. In 1888, the Peak Tram was born, the first funicular in Asia. Its history is meticulously documented and exhibited at the Peak Tram Historical Gallery at the lower terminus.
The View from the Peak
I went straight to the Sky Terrace 428 viewing deck as soon as I alighted from the tram. The temperature was unforgiving, and the wind mocked my inability to prepare for the cold. I failed to bring gloves so I had to tuck my hands into my jacket and waited for my turn to occupy the most coveted corner spot. From here, window lights and street lamps glowed like multi-colored fireflies, allowing me to forget about my freezing predicament for a moment. I remembered the time I first heard the voice recording played on the train from the airport. When it said, “Welcome to the modern and futuristic city of Hong Kong,” it was referring to this —- the bright, luminous clusters of stars.
In spite of the cold, it was a friendly sky. No fog to block our view. No rain to shoo us away. Only me, the mad crowd behind me, and a sea of lights in front of me. I wanted to stay immovable at that spot until my eyes tired of absorbing everything. It didn’t happen. I could look at it for an hour and not budge, but my grumbling tummy and flaking skin had been urging me to get inside and eat something.
Opening Hours: 7am to 12mn
The Peak Tower
Monday-Friday: 10am – 11pm
Saturday, Sunday, Holidays: 8am – 11pm
Peak Tram and Sky Pass Ticket Prices
Return: HKD 75 for adults, HKD 36 for kids
One-way: HKD 63 for adults, HKD 29 for kids
How to get to Victoria Peak: From Tsim Sha Tsui, where most budget hotels are located, take the MTR to Central Station. Use EXIT J2. Upon exiting the terminal, cross the Chater Garden and look for the Bank of China Building (picture on the left). Just keep an eye on this tall building because this is your main landmark. Walk uphill along Garden Road and you’ll see the Peak Tram Terminus on your left hand side. More detailed directions here.