Monday, August 20, 2007

Peak Walk

The check-by-jowl existence of Hong Kong’s Island’s countryside and city is at its most evident and dramatic around Victoria Peak. Views from its northern face look down over green slopes to towering residential and office towers. From its southern aspect, you can see wooded valleys, peaceful islands, and cozy waterside communities.

All walks start at the confluence of roads next to the Peak Tower and the Galleria. The paths that spread from here are signposted and give approximate walking times to different destinations.

The summit of Victoria Peak is actually another quarter mile (500m) to the west, up steep Mount Austin Road, opposite the Peak Tower. The Japanese razed the govenor’s mansion here during World War II, and the area is now a pleasant garden. The views, which include the neoclassic mansions of Hong Kong’s super-wealthy, are magnificent

One of the most popular walks is a 70-minute amble around the Peak along Lugard Road and Harlech Road. The 2.2-mile (3.5km) route encircles Victoria Peak along a smooth, mostly flat pathway. Start at the Peak Tower and head west, views open up to Victoria Habour, the huge West Kowloon reclamation project, the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter, and Green and Peng Chau Islands. Lantau, Hong Kong’s largest island, comes into view to the west, as does Macau. Father west you will spot Cheung Chau Island and to the southwest, two huge power-plant smokestacks rise from Lamma Island. The pathway rounds to the south side of the island to scenes of lush Pokfulam Valley and junks and sampans anchored in Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter. The walk ends back at the Peak Tower.

About 1.4 miles into the walk, you can take a track descending into the thickly wooded Pokfulam Valley to Pokfulam Reservoir – the 1.2 mile route takes about 40 minutes. From just beyond the reservoir, you can catch a bus back to Central.

For views of the eastern and southeastern sides of Hong Kong Island, head south down Peak Road about 500 yards from the Galleria to Plunker Road, which forks to the left and leads to Plantation Road. Follow the Plantation Road until it meets Severn Road, then turn right and start your first descent as it circles almost halfway around the Peak, From here Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter comes into view. Farther to the left is sprawling Ocean Park, the Deep Water Bay residential area, and Repulse Bay, home to Hong Kong’s favorite beach.

The Peak Hong Kong

The Peak Hong Kong has been the preferred residence since the British arrived in 1841. From The Peak’s various vantage points spectacular vistas take in most of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, much of the New Territories, the outlying islands, mainland China, and Macau. A trip to The Peak should be one of the first things visitors do after arriving in Hong Kong, not only for its world-famous views, but to gain a perspective of the city. Pick a cloudless day and make two journeys, one during daylight and another in the evening to catch a memorable image of Hong Kong illuminated.

Most visitors to Victoria Peak arrive by a funicular railway, which climbs out of Central at an impossible angle to reach the upper station at the Peat Tower – a metallic, bowl-shaped landmark. From the terrace on the fifth floor of the tower, the views are quite outstanding, looking down the mountain to the high-rise apartments of the Mid-Levels and the gleaming office towers crowded into Central, and beyondthat across busy Victoria Habor to Tsim Sha Tsui and kowloon, backed by the green jagged mountains of the New Territories.

The Peak Tower has souvenir shops, restaurants, a Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, and a motion simulator ride called the Peak Explorer. Impressive views can be had from the restaurants at the adjacent Peak Galleria, a shopping and restaurant complex with some outdoor seating.

The Peak Hong Kong