Thursday, 7 March 2013


On the top ten list of FREE things to do in Hong Kong (a list of which I googled because the Internet is never wrong and never lies) is a visit to The Peak.

However, this is only free is you live walking distance and have a healthy appetite for hiking (perhaps an exaggeration - let's call it strenuous uphill walking) or have the ability of flight. Otherwise, if you're like me and are unwilling to queue for hours only to pay an extortionate fee in order to ride the traditional old time tram experience to the top, there is a perfectly adequate public bus from just outside the Star Ferry terminal in central (Pier 6) that cost less than 80p ($10 HKD).

So, being that we lived Kowloon side we also combined our hilltop outing to the roof of Hong Kong with yet another top ten (so cheap it's almost) free experience and embarked upon the 20p Star Ferry journey (a personal pleasure and a more pleasing bargain - perhaps I was a stingy sailor or miserly fish in another life) to Central where we aligned for the bus service to The Peak. En route we sipped at Skol's finest tin cans, taking in the ever increasing lofty view from the top deck, roaming along the twisty hillside road -although not a short journey still a good bet that it's quicker than queuing for the tram and allows you the much needed time you need to elevate to the next level on whatever new game you've become unceasingly obsessed with. And in technological Hong Kong you are never alone in this socially acceptable antisocial act. Fact.

Anyway, so far, that's a grand total of less than £1 spent (except for the beers but shhh) and about as free as stuff gets in Hong Kong. The views from both are certainly worth the splurge if it's a clear day, and if it's not such a fine afternoon buy more beers.

The ferry ride is short but sweet, but don't expect it to be as impressive in the opposite direction, it's not. But if you like boats, or want to travel cross harbour on top of the water rather than under it then it's not a bad bet. Swimming is not advised...unless someone bets you a handsome sum of money, then I'd say it's worth a go but don't expect to ever be the same colour ever again.

Getting from A to B by boat, in a city, has to be up there on the (top ten) list of pros for living in Hong Kong. Albeit there aren't many B's but I suppose another pro (also top ten) is that the vast majority of the few B's are islands that don't feel anything like the city and there's nothing quite like hopping on a ferry for half an hour to a quiet village to make you forget that 30 minutes ago you were in one of the busiest places in the world. Even typing it sends shivers of suffocating claustrophobia down my unnerved spine and I'm shuddering at the traumatic flashbacks of the height of humid hustling Summer...sweaty smelly strangers. I do like alliteration.

Sadly, you cant catch a boat all the way to the top of The Peak, that would be something special they should look into. I might even queue and pay top dollar for that sort of service - maybe.

Once at the summit, forget heading to the overcrowded main viewing platform. Instead, plan ahead, avoid spending money on overpriced dining and buy enough cans from the kiosk at the Star Ferry port (that way not only do you have a nice cold beverage for the bus journey but some warm ones for the too too). Inside the shopping complex - where chumps pay and queue (apparently I dislike this scenario more than I previously realised) for the FREE view - head out through a more discreet side door to a small deserted viewing terrace. Hardly anyone seems to chose this latter option, opting not to think for themselves but abidingly follow the signs directing them to the paid entrance. This is not a pleasant experience, you will spend an age trying to jostle your way through mainland tourists who enjoy having a full blown photo shoot against the infamous Hong Kong skyline backdrop. There is nothing to be gained from the extra escalator's elevation apart from mild irritation and frustrating annoyance. I know this because we were those chumps who thought there might be something special up there...but we were also the champs who discovered the until now undisclosed secret balcony.

If timed correctly, you can while away some time watching the city descend into evening as the lights of all the sky scrapers begin to illuminate the darkening dense metropolis below you. Witnessing the view in both it's day and night time glory is really getting your monies worth. Apparently this is becoming an important factor in almost all I do - do not take me to an all you can eat buffet, I may never leave out of principle.

After you're over staring at the concrete jungle you can end the now slightly tipsy excursion with an evening descent on foot through the surrounding dense greenery, along the path leading down to Central. You emerge just around the corner from Wyndham Street and Lan Kwai Fong, nicely located for a well deserved couple of drinks during happy hour. This final reward is sadly not for free...but when you've had such a cheap day, why not end it on a different kind of high? Highly priced beer.

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