Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 15: Victoria Peak

Woke up with a scratchy throat and head/sinus congestion. Either the pollution is finally getting to me or I'm getting sick. Just before lunchtime, we headed out by taxi to the Victoria Peak tram terminal. Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and is one of the wealthiest residential neighborhoods in Hong Kong. The tram is a funicular railway built in the 1800s that is still in operation today and transports people from the Central District of Hong Kong the 1.4 km up to Victoria Peak, with a few intermediate stops on the way. At the top, there is a shopping mall of sorts with some dining options and, on the top level, a Peak observatory that offers amazing 360-degree views of Hong Kong.

We got off the Tram and had lunch at Tien Yi, a Chinese restaurant located just one level below the observatory. Our table was right next to the window and we had a spectacular view of the city while we enjoyed a prix fixe dim sum lunch. Everything was delicious. Afterwards, we headed up to the observatory and walked around the terrace looking at views of the city from all angles. When we were done, we took the tram back down to Central.

From there, we tried to hop a cab to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, but we kept getting English-challenged cab drivers, none of which could comprehend our destination (even with me pointing to the location on a map). So we headed back to the hotel instead and got cleaned up. We took the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui and returned to the tailor for a fitting on our custom clothes. Then, I decided I was underdressed to meet our friends Amy & Erik for drinks at a swanky bar later that night, so I went off in search of a new outfit. I settled for a new top and shoes, which drew attention away from the ratty jeans I was wearing better than the t-shirt I had on. We were fairly far north in TST and needed to get back to the waterfront area quickly (not to mention I was wearing new shoes) so we tried to hop a cab and struck out again with the language barrier. Although this time, we had an English-speaking cab driver who clearly understood me when I said "One Peking Road," but kept asking for the address. Um, that IS the address -- ONE PEKING ROAD. He didn't get it, so we ended up high-tailing down there on foot.

Aqua Spirit is located on the top floor of One Peking Building (located at, yes, One Peking Road) and has awesome views of the Hong Kong Island skyline. As it turns out, though, the views were even better from Amy & Erik's apartment nearby. We had some drinks and appetizers, then went off in search of real food. We ended up at a restaurant close to where Amy & Erik live and had delicious and inexpensive late-night noodles. Amy & Erik were kind enough to invite us over for an impromptu visit at their apartment, which was incredible. They live on the 60-some floor of an apartment building in Kowloon, and from their balcony (which is a little high off the ground for me, but I did step outside and look for a bit while clutching the handrail tightly) they have breathtaking views of the Hong Kong Island skyline. It would be so easy to sit in their apartment every night and just be overwhelmed by looking outside the window. Their apartment is large by Hong Kong standards (and US standards in many big cities as well) and just gorgeous. We had a blast hanging out with them and hearing about their lives in Hong Kong as American expats. But we long overstayed our welcome and headed home by taxi after 1:00 a.m.

The tram to Victoria Peak:

Dim sum lunch at Tien Yi:

Views from Victoria Peak:

Che getting fitted for his new suit!

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