- Part 1: Star Alliance Lounge at LAX Tom Bradley Terminal
- Part 2: Asiana Business Class Quadra Smartium LAX-ICN
- Part 3: Asiana Business Class Lounge at ICN
- Part 4: Asiana Business Class ICN-HKG
- Part 5: Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers
- Part 6: Sightseeing in Hong Kong
- Part 7: Getting from Hong Kong to Macau
- Part 8: Sheraton Macau Hotel, Macau Central
- Part 9: Sightseeing in Macau
- Part 10: Getting from Macau to the Hong Kong Airport
- Part 11: Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Lounge at HKG
- Part 12: Singapore Airlines First Class HKG-SFO
- Part 13: Four Points by Sheraton Hotel & Suites SFO
- Part 14: Alaska Airlines Boardroom Lounge at SFO Terminal 1
- Part 15: Southwest Airlines SFO-SNA
I was only in Hong Kong for three days, but I actually think that was a pretty good amount of time to see some of the big tourist spots. The big one, of course, is Victoria Peak, where you can get a view of downtown Hong Kong. If you ever check TripAdvisor for help planning your trip, you’ll see that the number one attraction for Hong Kong is the downtown skyline.
With that in mind, I wanted to head straight for Victoria Peak to get a view of Hong Kong at night. My plan was to go once at night and once in the day so I could have both images for my photo collection. While it’s possible to take a taxi to the top, it’s not really the most scenic way to get there. In fact there are two things in particular you’d miss out on if you went by car: the Star Ferry and the Victoria Peak Tram.
The hotel’s concierge was kind enough to provide me with a map and directions, and I found that the Star Ferry Pier is just a five minute walk from the Sheraton. At first I was a little confused about where exactly to go as there are all kinds of signs in the area, but I soon figured out I needed to follow the sign that said “To Central (Lower Deck Entrance).” Once you’re there you’ll find a vending machine where you can buy your ticket. It costs a very reasonable $2.50-$3HKD to get across.
The ferry ride itself is only about 10-12 minutes long. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it basically takes you from Kowloon, which I guess could be considered mainland, to Hong Kong Island, which is where the downtown area is. The water that you cross is Victoria Harbor.
The ride over was a little bumpy as the water was somewhat choppy, but not really enough to get seasick over. By the time I’d gotten on the boat it was dark, so the view of the island already looked amazing.
There was a little haze in the sky so I wasn’t sure how clear it would be when I got to the top of the peak, but I remember hearing of unhappy travelers who could barely see anything because of it. I kept my fingers crossed that it would be clear at the top.
Once you get across the water there are options for several buses that you can take, one of which should take you directly to the Victoria Peak Tram. I decided to walk around the downtown area a little bit while I was there. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is in a pretty good location relative to other buildings, and I even saw a lady there that looked and sounded eerily similar to Cruella de Vil from the 101 Dalmatians Disney movie.
Anyway, after walking around I decided to grab a taxi to the Peak Tram. By that point I was only a $10 HKD ride away, so it was pretty cheap in my opinion. I got in the slow moving line to buy tickets, and when I got to the window I had a few options on the type of ticket to buy. I can’t remember the exact names of the ticket options, but trust me when I say you want the more expensive one that promises you the better view. If you don’t get that one, you can’t get to the top where all the best pictures can be taken from! It costs something in the ballpark of $70HKD.
There was more waiting after buying the ticket as the Peak Tram brought people up and down the hill. The tram itself is very small, consisting of two cars, and you’re really going to want to find an actual seat since the climb is very, very steep. Still, there were a few guys standing (including myself) so it’s not the end of the world if you can’t grab a seat.
After a short ride you’re at the top. You walk through a shopping mall-type building before you get to the top, which is the roof of the building. This is where all the best views are (note you can get glimpses from other lookout areas on lower floors, but all are obstructed). The roof area did not seem to be capacity controlled, so you might be faced with a lot of people in your way. Thankfully it wasn’t that huge of a problem for me and I was able to take all the pictures I wanted.
I was also glad to see that it was a very clear night, with only a thin layer of haze at the top of the sky. All the buildings were perfectly visible and I was able to see pretty far across the harbor as well. I’m not sure how often it’s this clear, but I consider myself lucky that I got this great of a view.
After taking my pictures I decided to head back down. The problem with that is that the line was absolutely huge and slow-moving, and unfortunately I wasn’t dressed well. I was stupid and assumed that because the weather was extremely pleasant at sea level that it would be similar at the Peak. I was dead wrong. My shorts and polo shirt were barely a shield against the wind and light rain that was coming down on me as I was shivering in line. The line area is completely uncovered and exposed to the sky, so if you don’t bring a hoodie, at least bring an umbrella! Also keep in mind that I’m from Orange County, California…so weather that makes me shiver might be quite nice for some of you!
I’d already signed up for a half-day tour in the morning and needed to be up early, so after I made it down I headed straight back to the hotel for good nights sleep.
I started on my tour early the next morning. Coincidentally, the first leg of the tour was Victoria Peak. I knew this when signing up for the tour and was completely fine with it. As I mentioned before, I wanted to get a view of the downtown area in both the daytime and night time, so this would actually work out well for me. The tour was a small group of about 8 people that I booked directly from the hotel for about $70 USD.
Instead of taking the Peak Tram, we drove the entire way up. As we were driving up we could already tell that the view wasn’t going to be good: there was simply too much fog and mist to be able to see much. That’s exactly what ended up happening, and it was even worse that I thought it would be. I couldn’t see a thing!
The tour guides had obviously experienced this before so they took us about halfway down the mountain so we could get a better view. The view there was completely unimpressive, and honestly the nighttime view would have been MUCH better in my opinion even if it were clear. If I were to go again, I’d only bother going to the Peak in the daytime if it were an extremely clear day with blue sky.
Another interesting part of the short tour was a boat ride in a fishing boat on Victoria Harbor. It only lasted about 15 minutes, but was interesting to get a different view of the city and other boats from the water.
There were all kinds of boats as well, from yachts to crappy little boats that were barely afloat. It wasn’t the most interesting thing in the world but it was still worth doing to get me off my feet for a few minutes.
Finally, the tour ended with a visit to Stanley Market. It’s essentially an open-air shopping area with shops lined along the street. I expected it to be much bigger than it was, and I didn’t find anything of particular interest. This would be the place to get all your little souvenirs if you were to get some. I was interested in some little ceramic dragon figures, but the prices were higher than I was willing to pay (around $20 USD each).
You could also buy some silk and cashmere shawls for relatively cheap. I bought some as gifts for my sister and mom, but both confirmed that the material isn’t real cashmere (I’m not skilled enough to tell on my own). Still, they were cheap enough that the nice designs made it worth the price of about $15 each.
Other than that, there are various shopping malls around the Kowloon area near the hotel. One thing I was particularly interested in was buying some replica watches, which is something I’ve always enjoyed. I know many people disagree with me here, but I like watches for the way they look and the function they provide, and not because of how much they cost or how rare they are. For that reason, I am completely happy buying and wearing a fake Rolex or Omega watch for $30-$100 rather than the real thing for $5K-$10K. And yes, I do tell people that my watch is fake, because I also don’t want anyone to think I paid $10K for a watch!
As you walk along Nathan Road, which is just adjacent to the Sheraton hotel, you’ll see quite of few gentlemen standing around asking if you’re interested in watches, bags, and custom clothes. After talking to a few of them briefly, I decided to take up one of them on his offer to show me some. The way this usually works is you follow this guy to an apartment or room somewhere nearby, where he can then show you the “merchandise.” The problem with this is that you have no idea where the guy is leading you, and for all you know you might be about to get kidnapped. If you’ve never done it before, I recommend having a friend with you…unless you’re completely fine with it.
I’d gone through the drill a couple of times before so it wasn’t unexpected, though I must say I was extremely nervous since this was the first time I was alone. We were joined by another guy who led me to the 6th floor of a nearby building. He knocked on the door next to the elevator, and it was opened by yet another guy inside. At this point I’m thinking “Great, I’m already outnumbered 3-1″. This seemed like a small apartment with two bedrooms and a living room. In one of the bedrooms was a group of about 6 guys watching TV. I knew if something went wrong I’d be completely screwed, but I was trying to think positive thoughts.
I was brought a “portfolio” of all the products they had, and I was asked to pick out a few that I might be interested in. I said it would be hard for me to choose from some pictures and that I’d prefer to see the real thing, but he said I had to pick from the pictures and then he could bring out the items. I picked four or five that caught my eye and they were all brought out to me. Apparently they keep the merchandise in a different room in case they get raided or something. I picked out two that I liked, negotiated the price, and that was it. I walked out with two new watches for about $90 each. Pricey, even for me, but these are good quality fakes.
Out of curiosity, I started asking the guy questions. He was from Bangladesh, and had been in Hong Kong for about 8 years. I asked if he’s ever been caught selling fakes, but he said the Hong Kong police never give them any trouble at all. I asked where the merchandise comes from, assuming that it was from China. He said said that shipping from China to Hong Kong is so heavily tracked that it’s very difficult for them to get any fakes from China. Instead, all of their merchandise comes from Taiwan. We got back downstairs, and right outside there happened to be a real watch store. He pulled me over to the window and pointed at one saying “hey boss, there’s the watch you just bought.” THAT’S when you know you got some fresh merchandise!
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of legitimate shopping to do as well. And people in Hong Kong are apparently wealthy, because stuff there is extremely expensive and there are lines of people waiting to buy.
So that’s the gist of my short trip to Hong Kong. Next up, how to get from Hong Kong to Macau!