The Peak Tower is probably the single most popular and best known of Hong Kong’s attractions – and rightfully so. The view is spectacular – really, it’s hard to put into words – and even getting up there can be fun. Provided, of course, that you’re not walking it in the kind of heat and humidity that Hong Kong gracelessly insists upon. The Peak Tower is on top of one of the hills/mountains [depending on where you’re from] immediately behind the city on Hong Kong Island, and it’s basically a weird shaped building with overpriced shops selling tourist junk and expensive food with a viewing platform called Sky Terrace 428. It boasts a 360 degree view, and so I thought it was a bit weird to call it 428. However I soon found out that the terrace is 428 metres above sea level, and the name quickly made a bit more sense.
To get up to the peak, there are a few options. My least recommended would be walking up, as the heat is oppressive. By far the most enjoyable and exciting offer is the Peak Tram, which leaves from a terminal on Garden St and takes you up to the top at a seemingly ridiculous angle. For HKD $75 for an adult you can get a return tram ticket and entrance to the Sky Terrace. It’s well worth it. The middle option is to take bus 15 from Central Station or the Star Ferry, though you’ll have to pay $40 up the top for the Sky Terrace.
We went up to the Peak on our first full day in Hong Kong, and arrived around noon. We took the train to Tsim Sha Tsui, then caught the Star Ferry over to HK Island. From there we decided to walk to the tram terminal, following the helpful signs pointing in that direction. I don’t know if John appreciated this decision – as he explained he has more of him to move than I do.
We eventually got to the Peak Tram terminal, and saw the line. It wasn’t pretty. I hate queues, and while I accept their existence and necessity I don’t have to be happy about them. We had the option to pay by Octopus card, but we wanted the actual Peak Tram ticket [for souvenir purposes] and the price was the same. When we got to the front of the line, an older man offered me a free ticket [guess he bought one too many] and so only John bought a ticket. I discovered later that the free ticket he gave me was for a one-way trip, and by the time I then paid for Sky Deck entrance and a return trip on the tram it worked out to have only saved me HKD $7, or AUD $1.
Ticket in hand we crushed ourselves into the mass of people crowded into the Peak Tram Gallery. They say this is free with your ticket – what they don’t say is that it’s the waiting hall for the tram and you can’t see much because you’re being squashed in amongst the horde, sweating and cramping and waiting until you can take another step forward and be under the fan. We waited as two trams filled up and left, and by the time the third one arrived we were standing right in front of the doors and able to pick a prime position. I’d read that the views were best from the right side of the tram and by God was that true!
The tram is decked out all old-fashioned with wooden seats and antique fixtures. Before the tram line was built, local men would carry people up to the top in sedan chairs. Just thinking about that made my back and my knees hurt. Along the line, steps run all the way up and I was glad I was taking advantage of electric rather than leg power. Shortly after the tram started the incline increased. You could see how steep it was, and you could feel the weight of gravity pressing you back into your seats. I understood pretty quickly why the tram going down still had passengers facing backwards! In the aisle the floor was grooved to help keep anyone standing, standing. Looking out to the right, trees gave way to glimpses of the skyline which gave way back to trees and ferns. It was brilliant. And then we were at the top.
The Peak Tower is a weird-looking piece of architecture, like a stumpy tower with a wok on the top. To get to Sky Terrace 428 you have to go up a lot of escalators. Lots of short escalators, but you feel like you’re walking in circles.
Once you’re up there though – the view is incredible. Obviously it’s best on a clear day or night, or as clear as Hong Kong gets. We got pretty lucky, with only a bit of haze. As you can see, it’s not too bad a spot.
After checking out the view and having a walk around the Peak, we took the tram back down.
We tried to visit the Peak again at night a couple of days later in what seemed like beautiful weather. However, when we got off the train at Central Station to walk to the Peak Terminal we discovered that it had started bucketing down with rain. Our trip back up was postponed.
The next night we got lucky. We took the Star Ferry over to HK Island, enjoying the glowing skyline from the water, and decided to take the bus to the Peak Terminal. Bus 15C leaves from the piers and takes you up to the terminal. We sat on the open top of the double-decker bus and soon realised why they have signs saying ‘No Standing’! The way the bus drivers fly around corners could easily result in a passenger flight over the side!
We’d hoped that the Peak Tram wouldn’t be so busy at night. Well, I’d thought it would be and we’d be better off taking the bus, but John disagreed. Delusional thinking. It was even worse than during the day! However, we eventually got onto the tram and this time that tram driver was not mucking around. Once the doors were closed it was off, and I think we reached the top in about a third of the time of the first trip. This time it was all business.
We went straight up to Sky Terrace 428. They’d opened both sides of the terrace this time [last time half was closed for cleaning] and even so there was hardly room to move. I spotted a space at the railing and was right in there. John, being somewhat taller than almost everyone in the entire city, didn’t have such a problem seeing through people as I did. I should point out that I’m also taller than most people here, although John continues to insist that I’m vertically challenged.
If we thought it had been incredible in the daytime, we were simply blown away by the view at night. With all the buildings lit up it was magnificent. It slowly became a little more hazy, but this only turned the light red rather than gold and was actually quite interesting. We had some photos taken by the photographers there, and took our time soaking up the view from every piece of railing that we could.
Well, there was plenty of rail space on this side. Apparently no one realised you could still see the city from 10m to the left.
Back downstairs we bought an overpriced photo, although it’s not too bad a shot of both of us.
We’d chosen to only buy a one-way tram ticket this time, thinking getting back down would be hell and deciding to take the bus back instead. This would have been brilliant if the lines for the bus hadn’t also been rather extensive. However, we made it back in the end, taking bus 15 to Admiralty Station and taking the metro from there. I have to say that I love Hong Kong’s public transport system!