Hong Kong is an exciting place with loads of things to do, no matter what your interest. Whether you're looking for shopping, museums, archetecture, temples, parks, or nightlife, Hong Kong is loaded with fun. On this trip several parks and took the tram to the peak above downtown.

More Pictures of Hong Kong Weekend One

Editor's note: I can't believe how long it's been taking to post a web page. I was expecting a page a day, but these have been taking a whole week. It took four hours to write this, four hours to edit photos, and two hours to format the page - and they're preformatted! At this rate they should all be up a month after I get back home.

After my first day at the plant, Jim, Joe and I jumped on the bullet train and zoomed back to Hong Kong. Tran couldn't come because she doesn't have a Hong Kong visa. Hong Kong is less than a hundred miles away, but takes a good two hours to get there. The bullet is quick, but then there's a half hour (and half mile) hike through customs, then we jump on another train, and it's not a bullet.

But it's worth the hassle. Dongguan is a rundown noisy mess, (Jim and Joe weren't nearly that kind) and Hong Kong is an exciting slice of paradise with plenty to see and do. So after the big train ride south, we were at our hotel right on the waterfront (the mainland side) by 9 pm. I still didn't have my luggage, so I washed up and washed my shirt, then we headed to the mall for some dinner.

This mall is a huge thing stretching four city blocks, and is the bottom 1/5 of apartment and hotel highrises. Like malls everywhere, more than half of the stores are women's clothes. After a couple of sandwiches we hiked over to the waterfront promenade where half the town was taking in the remarkable skyline of Downtown Hong Kong lit up across the bay. But more on that later.

The next morning we headed out after breakfast - Jim and Joe hiked north to one of the street markets while I explored Kowloon Park near the hotel. This was a surprisingly big (30 acres) and scenic park. A web of paths wove through the trees to an assortment of features around each corner. Birds filled the park with chirping and cicada's flooded the place with screeching like a construction zone.

Though it's surrounded by highrises, you'd barely notice them behind all the trees. Along the paths between the trees are several ponds complete with flamingos, swans, ducks and turtles. The aviary has several big cages with parrots and gigantic Asian pigeons. It even has several exercise gardens where the locals were practicing their Tai Chai, plus shady pavilions and statues.

I was shooting pictures of one of the statues when Jim stopped by. They were done with their shopping and wanted to take the bus across the island to Ocean Park.

Ocean Park sounded like a good idea, it's in all the guidebooks and the bus sounded like a good way to see a long swath of the island. So we took the ferry across the bay, jumped on one of the small inter-island buses and headed straight up the hills to the south of downtown. We were quickly out of the business district and into the residential hills, winding our way through the forest of apartments until we crested the divide in the center of the island. After dropping off a few passengers we dropped back down along the southern coast, then pulled into the Ocean Park parking lot, half way between Aberdeen and Stanley. Though the island is only about 5 miles wide, the trip took half an hour.

As it turns out, Ocean Park was a bit of a disappointment. As soon as we got there we were told the panda exhibit was closed until August. Then after a lengthy discussion we decided we might as well check it out since we didn't know of anything else to do on this side of the island. Ocean Park is part aquarium and part amusement park. It looks like a great place for kids and families, but nothing I haven't seen before.

So we hiked down the main drag, past a few kid rides and drink stands, and found a few real interesting things. Somehow, they had a hot air balloon ride that carried a dozen people, but the balloon didn't seem nearly big enough to lift half that load. But seeing is believing and there it goes. The balloon was actually helium, so maybe that makes a difference. Just past that was a giant trampoline where the rider wears a tether so he can fly 20 or 30 feet. That seemed like a lot of fun, but we decided to take the aerial tram to the other side of the park instead.

The tram is just like the ones at ski areas, taking us up a high ridge that we thought was the end of the ride, but was only a third of the way. As we continued to the next ridge we had great views of the bay and neighboring islands. This was maybe the most interesting part of the park.

We exited the tram and followed the path south to the sea lion tank. This was a typical sea lion tank, made up to look like a rocky pond. They weren't doing any tricks except to jump in or out of the water to feed. Down below it had glass sides so we could see the action below the water. Sea lions are always a fun part of any aquarium and we hung out there for a good half hour.

The sea lion building was on the crest of the southern ridge, where it had a sweeping view of the outer islands. Hong Kong is loaded with islands. The guidebooks show a dozen or so near the main island, but I'm seeing dozens stretching to the horizon in every direction. I don't know if they belong to Hong Kong or China, but it's a captivating view, I could study it for hours. To the immediate south is Lamma Island with two small villages and no cars. It looks close enough to swim to, but tomorrow we'll take the ferry over there.

Every aquarium in the world has a shark tank, and so does this one. It's not too big but has a surprising variety of sharks. I pressed my camera to the glass and two of them dove right in front of me and just layed there until I took their picture. It even has a plexiglass tunnel going through the middle for a 360 degree panorama of the tank. Unfortunately, it had a moving walkway too, so I couldn't linger and watch the action.

The reef and jellyfish tanks had huge lines so we passed on those and headed back to the bus to see if we could get back in time for a trip to the Peak. We jumped on a different bus, and this one took a three mile tunnel through the core of the island and back to Central. This left us near the docks, so we started hoofing it uphill to the tram station that will take us to the Peak.

The Tram is actually a funicular, which is two cars connected by a cable so that the one going downhill pulls the one going uphill. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the plateau that is called The Peak, but the actual peak is a half mile away and fenced off on private property. At any rate, it's a short walk to the T-shaped observation building (and shopping mall). This 7-story thing has gift shops and snack bars on the first few levels with a huge observation platform on the top. We grabbed some smoothies then rode the escalators to the top.

The Peak sits on the ridge dividing the island, and being 80 feet up put us in a super breeze. Below us is the sea of skyscrapers in Hong Kong Central. A dozen buildings above 1000 feet, and dozens of high rise apartments half that tall. I'm not sure of our elevation but we're about even with the top of the World Finance Center, the 6th tallest building in the world at 1450 feet. Hundreds of boats dot the long harbor, including ferries, small freighters, and plenty of personal boats. Across the harbor is Kowloon with its own forest of highrises, though not as tall as this side. To the south is Ocean Park, where we just came from, and Lamma Island, where we'll be tomorrow.

After a bit, we came back down from the T-building, then took the hike around the actual peak. The trail loops about two miles in the jungly forest preserve that covers most of the peak area. As it makes its big circle we get a constantly changing perspective of the island. First passing above the business district, then the apartment district farther west, then the more rural areas to the west and south. The view were mostly blocked by the thick trees but there were also creeks, waterfalls, assorted flower and butterflys. By the time we made it back to the building area I was getting hungry so I grabbed a burger from Mcdonalds (at the mall) but instead of taking the tram back down we decided to walk down.

Hiking down is a lot more fun than taking the tram. The path starts in the forest of the peak then slowly winds through the highrises of the apartment district. At first the highrises are below us then as we drop into them they get taller and taller until we are back into the downtown area. Navigating Hong Kong is a lot of fun, most of the downtown is serviced by elevated walkways which make it easy to get around. But one of Hong Kong's little known secrets is the shear number of parks in the downtown area. They are seemingly on every corner and under bridges, and there are several that are huge. On our way down we did a quick tour the Zoological Garden on the west of downtown, then a couple of others with fountains and playground equipment.

Before we knew it we were back at the docks and wiped out. We took a quick ferry ride back to the hotel for a refreshing shower, then headed to the Hard Rock Cafe for some American style food (Jim and Joe were sick of Chinese). Afterward we headed to the waterfront for the big light show.

The Hong Kong skyline is (naturally) all lit up after dark and looks spectacular across the bay. But the Kowloon Promenade is playing piped-in music and the skyscrapers on the Hong Kong side are all blinking their lights in sync to the music. One building is blinking on and off, another is changing colors, another is doing the wave thing, another is pulsing vertically like the level meters on a stereo. Lasers shoot toward us from the top of the taller buildings in different colors and patterns. Jim and Joe were unimpressed, but this was a dozen 1000 foot buildings flashing their lights and lasers in sync to the music in a dozen different ways. I've seen better fireworks shows, but this was kind of cool.

Kowloon is the mainland side of the bay, Central is the island side of the bay where all of the tall skyscrapers are.
The bay is actually a strait, about a mile wide and 10 miles long.
Hong Kong island is about 5 miles N-S, 15 miles E-W.

Hong Kong Map

Dongguan China 2007       A weekend tour of parks, gardens and islands.
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