My third weekend in Hong Kong and my last in China. I spent the day exploring with Rick before getting on the plane for home. This included visiting the Peak Tram, then the Aviary and Hong Kong Park again. We then took the ferry to Lamma Island where we walked to the beach and went swimming.
More Pictures of Weekend Three
On my final weekend in China, I headed back to Hong Kong for a few last days. Rick flew into town two days earlier so we both headed south looking for some excitement. My flight leaves Sunday so we spent Saturday exploring Hong Kong one more time.
Like usual we were staying at the Prince Hotel by the Kowloon docks, but all the excitement is on the other side of the harbor. So we crossed the harbor on the Star Ferry (something like 30 cents) then hiked across town to the Peak Tram. I'd already been up the Peak last month but the view is one of the highlights of any trip to Hong Kong and it's always worth another visit anytime I'm in town.
The hike through downtown Hong Kong is fascinating too. Not only are there huge buildings and beautiful parks around every turn but the elevated walkway make the trek a breeze. These walkways connect all the major buildings high above the roadway where we never have to fight with traffic, and also give us an aerial view of the Mercedes and Jaguars that fill this town.
Our first stop was St Johns Church. This old church looks a lot like the typical church you'd find in nearly any town in America with its whitewashed tall steeple. But unlike American churches, this one sports a Mercedes in the clergy parking spot. Strolling farther down the road we found the HSBC building (Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corp), instantly recognizable with its framework on the outside. But what you don't see in all the pictures is that the framework raises the whole building twenty feet off the ground, so the entrance is an escalator coming out the bottom. The inside is hollow, making an atrium going from the sidewalk to the roof. I asked the guard if I could take a picture and he nodded, but the view was too wide for my camera so I didn't get anything usable from the inside.
After snapping a bunch of pictures we continued up the road to the entrance for the Peak Tram. This cable car is one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of Hong Kong. The 20 minute ride takes you straight up the steep hillside to the flat spot near Victoria Peak where you'll find the Peak Mall and Tower. From there we took the escalators to the roof of the Tower, where the view is one of the more spectacular in all of Asia - The 1500 foot hilltop looks down on all of downtown Hong Kong.
The tower seems to be about even with the top of the World Finance Center, the 6th tallest building in the world at 1450 feet. Below that is a sea of skyscrapers and highrise apartments filling in the entire north side of the island. The air is clear today, giving us a nice view to the south too. Hugging the south coast is the town of Aberdeen, with the island of Lamma beyond that, and an incredible number of smaller islands dotting the South China Sea beyond Lamma. It's really a remarkable view in both directions.
It's easy to spend an hour hanging over the rail taking in the view and trading pictures with other tourists, but we have other things to see. Nearly everyone who takes the Tram up also takes Tram down, but that's not for us. Curving around the west side of the Tower is the service road that curves through the forested hillside and into the residential district, so that's where we headed. I did this hike a month earlier and it's great way to see the city - a scenic walk in the trees that slowly breaks into the highrises and then a series of great parks. One of Hong Kong's best kept secrets is the huge number of parks right in the downtown area.
So we walked down the hill, then curved to the east and into the Hong Kong Zoo Park. This park is mostly big bird cages and small animal cages, so we took an easy stroll through but kept right on going and crossed the road into the city's biggest park, Hong Kong Park. This park is full of gardens, ponds and big displays, but we're mostly interested in the giant Aviary cage. I came here last month with Jim but it's Rick's first time.
This big bird cage is about the size of a football field and covered with a big dome of chicken wire. The cedar pathway inside is about 15 feet off the ground which puts us at eye level with the birds in the trees. But given the size of this place, there's really not that many birds here. You'd think the place would be choked with them but we're only seeing maybe a dozen or two. I imagine there are a lot more hidden where we can't see them, but either way it's immensely interesting with lorikeets, minahs and colorful pigeons.
After about a half hour in the steamy bird cage we continued east past the lotus pond, waterfall and conservatory, to the parkside cafe. The chicken linguine was wonderful, but it was missing the chicken (I had them add some). So we finished our beers and then took a stroll through the Pacific Center Mall, which like malls everywhere is nothing but women's clothes and jewelry. Just next door is my favorite building in Hong Kong, the Lippo Center, a rugged looking highrise of black sculptured windows. So as we passed through we stopped in the lobby for an iced latte and watched the traffic zoom by from the giant windows.
That was all a lot of fun but we had an even more interesting trip ahead. After hiking back to the docks we jumped on the ferry for Lamma Island. This is the small island on the back side of Hong Kong Island where Jim and I went hiking a month ago. But this time we're not going to hike it, we're just going to walk to the beach on the west side and go swimming.
The ferry ride to Lamma is an interesting trip in its self - a half hour tour of dodging freighters and ferries in the huge harbor, with a back drop of highrises everywhere, on the mainland and the island. Hilly islands and mountainous mainland come into view as we round the west side of the island toward Aberdeen. Lamma is only about a mile from HK Island, but it's on the remote back side and seems a world apart.
We got off the boat and walked the thin road to the small village of Yung Shue Wan, which isn't much more than a narrow street lined with restaurants and gift shops. Just behind this was row of tidy little houses, some for rent and some for locals. It was all surprisingly clean and colorful - tiny little houses that would make great summer cabins. We hung a left and continued out of town and past a series of jungle choked vegetable plots. The thick cover was full of chirping birds and girls in bathing suits, assuring us we were going the right way. After about a mile we sprung out of the forest and onto Hung Shing Ye beach. This surprisingly clean beach is a long crescent of sand dotted with trees. It even has a snack bar, hotel and showers - which seems mighty generous for an island with no cars.
We dropped our stuff on a rocky outcrop on the beach's north side and watched the action for a while. A tiny surf was breaking about 50 yards offshore and the lifeguards were warning people to get out but nobody was listening - kids and adults alike kept right on diving into the surf, some even carrying babies. Most of them were parked right at the surf break, body surfing it a few feet toward shore. We took our turns splashing in the drink with the kids. I swam out to the shark fence where the water was barely over my head, and just floated around for a while. The South China Sea was warm and salty, nothing like the Oregon coast back home.
When we had enough we made the quick hike back to Yung Shue Wan and caught the ferry back to Hong Kong just as the sun was going down, then crossed over to Kowloon in time to see the downtown light show one more time. This was my last day in China, tomorrow I catch the early flight back to Portland.
Dongguan China 2007
Hiking Hong Kong Park, The Peak, and Lamma Island