We weren’t staying on Hong Kong Island but knew it would be one of the places that we wanted to visit, mainly to go up the Victoria Peak. Taking a short break from our use of the MTR we crossed Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry which was less than ten minutes journey time but a really nice way to see both sides of the harbour.
Although the tallest tower in Hong Kong is actually on the Kowloon side (although it is very difficult to tell by eye!), the buildings in Hong Kong Island are much more built up. It immediately feels as thought you are entering a more corporate and commercial world – everything is biggest and shinier. After spending time walking past some of these buildings we decided to head to The Peak tram station to get some views from above. There are buses that you can get to the top of the peak but we wanted to go up in the tram as part of the experience. If you do plan on taking the tram then expect to wait a while. We were pretty horrified when we saw the size of the queue and were waiting in line for over an hour (although luckily we were under cover when the thunderstorm hit) but we waited it out and I’m really pleased we did. It was a fun journey and I will remember it for a long time. The track just keeps getting steeper and steeper as you climb and just as you think it can’t possibly manage any more you have reached the top. It was pretty terrifying going back down as the seats face backwards so you can’t see where you are going but can feel how steep the drop is.
From the peak itself there were excellent views and our ticket included a trip up to the 360° viewing terrace. I would recommend going up on as clear a day as possible, although bear in mind that most people will probably try and do that. Although it was quite hazy when we were up there we could still see relatively far, it just wasn’t the best for taking photos. There are also lots of shops and restaurants within The Peak building as well as a Madame Tussauds which we avoided. However we did buy some postcards to sell from the post office and mark with The Peak stamp.
After we came back down on the tram we decided to go on a walk through Hong Kong Park which was a really nice oasis in the middle of the city. It was a little bizarre seeing all the skyscrapers around whilst we were walking through greenery but a contrast that I decided I quite liked. The park was the first place in the city that we saw terrapins in the lake which was pretty exciting – certainly not the sort of thing you get to see in an English lake!
Our final experience of the island was fantastic as we headed to the mid-autumn festival! We had found out it was taking place over several nights earlier that day but the night we were there included a fire dragon dance, which we didn’t want to miss. The main festival area had various light and lantern displays, a stage for performances and stalls selling artisan products or demonstrating different crafts.
The street where the dragon dance was happening was very busy but we managed to find a decent spot to watch it. The dragon appeared to made of some sort of hay to form its head and backbone which was a base to hundreds of lit incense sticks which glowed as the dragon moved. I was impressed by and felt sorry for the troupe supporting the dragon as it looked very heavy and they were all clearly very hot. The dragon was heralded by a drummer and then danced up and down the street multiple times. We also saw the dragon have its incense replenished part way through the dance so it could glow brighter. Following the dragon (bizarrely) were some bagpipes and girls performing various Highland dances. I’m not quite sure what the significance was but it all added to the sense of spectacle. Although we were very warm and smelled of smoke afterwards it was great fun to watch and be part of something more local and traditional.
I enjoyed our time on Hong Kong Island and would like to have seen some more of it. If I return I’d like to walk around the old town and see the botanical gardens in particular.