Victoria Peak is probably the top tourist destination in Hong Kong (see what I did there?). It’s the island’s tallest mountain, from which you can experience beautiful views of the city. My friend Kate and I opted to take the scenic and quick Peak Tram to the top (really our only choice as we had to fit all of Hong Kong into 48ish hours). TripAdvisor informs me that you actually can hike up the entire thing, although this doesn’t seem like a popular route.
As we approached the summit, it became clear that Victoria Peak is like no other mountain that I’ve ever been on. If there is a spectrum of developed-ness for summits, with “pristine nature” as 1, and “all the amenities” (bathroom, viewing platforms, restaurants, Croc’s store) as 10, Victoria Peak is a 12. You exit the tram into a three-story mall called “the Peak Galleria.” I was even able to procure a Starbucks (before everyone gets judgy, I only did this because I wanted to know what my name looked like in Chinese, and my brilliant plan was to request this at Starbucks, rather than, god forbid, talk to a stranger. My plan…sort of worked).
What the baristas came up with for my name.
Luckily, my proximity to hundreds of foam shoes and fancy coffee did not take away from my ability to appreciate the spectacular view of Hong Kong. Even in chilly March, the environment seemed tropical. It looked surprisingly like Hawaii (the fact that this surprised me should give you a good idea of my grasp of geography). Although a mix of pollution and cloudy weather made it difficult to see some of the ships in the harbor, the view was breathtaking.
On the viewing platform an interactive audio guide is provided free of charge, which allows you to identify buildings in the surrounding area. This held my attention for a respectable amount of time, but I’m not the type of person who is into maps, or knowing where I am in general.
The most touristy tourist.
After I had taken in the view, I was somewhat chagrined that I was so far removed from the mysterious and exotic looking greenery around me. There wasn’t even a steep rock on which I could roll my ankle, as is my custom on most hikes. Thanks, but no thanks, overly cushy mountain top. I believe there is something to be said for sitting on incredibly uncomfortable boulders and/or sticks while shoveling trail mix in your mouth: your butt hurts, but you pretend it doesn’t so you don’t look like a wuss. This hike made me feel like a wuss. In retrospect, I think a large part of the problem is that I thought I was going on a hike in the first place. This was really more similar to going to the top of the empire state building; it’s more about the destination than the journey.
More Victoria Peak views.
But I was determined to be on a hike, so I made this into one. A travel guide I had snatched in my over preparedness mode (OPM), recommended a lesser-known “nature walk” on Mt. Austin road. This route promised to lead to a different viewing point, with better views and fewer people. Following this path enhanced our experience 10-fold. Kate and I were able to actually immerse ourselves in the environment, (partially because we got lost repeatedly). We meandered through manicured gardens, natural vegetation, and possibly a few people’s backyards.
Pretty plant #1.
Pretty plant #2 (feel free to write in the comments section if you know what these pretty plants are! I’m more fauna than flora).
A mix of poor signage, and luxury residences lead to what should probably be described as trespassing (read: we are cool and dangerous). Nonetheless, we made it to the top very excited, proud, and satisfied!
The view from the other side of Victoria Peak.
On the way back down, I personally got us lost again and Kate graciously did not murder me. This excursion was so much more fun and memorable because we took the path less traveled. It also makes me feel very validated for being type A and purchasing extra travel guides. Stay tuned for a whirlwind description of what Kate and I did with our remaining 24ish hours in China, and tips for how to not offend bus drivers!