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An Almost Perfect Day in Hong Kong

Peninsula Peaked a Long Time Before J&L Arrived!

semi-overcast 26 °C

Since we arrived, the weather has been quite grey, with overcast skies and intermittent showers. When we woke on Friday, we could see that the day was going to be a little more hopeful, so we decided to take advantage of what could be our one good day of weather and take the tram (actually technically a funicular railway) to the top of Victoria Peak. For the second time, we took the wonderful MTR over to Hong Kong Island, and then strolled through the Hong Kong Park to the Peak Tram station. Of course, given the weather, the rest of Hong Kong had the same idea, but it took only thirty minutes in line to find ourselves trundling up the 1.4km route up the side of Victoria Peak. The tram - in a less sophisticated format – has been operating since 1888, before which you had to be carried up in a sedan chair!


This being Hong Kong, the first thing you come to when you exit the tram is – of course! - a shopping mall! As anti-shopping as we are, however, it wasn’t hard to resist the temptations oozing from about 100 shops before we finally reached the viewing platform. Even with less than perfect weather, the view was quite spectacular.
To escape the masses, we left the viewing platform and took a two mile wander around the Peak Circle Trail. It was hot and very muggy as we walked through dense forest, but every so often the trees would clear revealing some even more impressive views of the city.




It’s not until you go back down Victoria Peak that you can appreciate the tram’s capability. At it’s most steep point, the tram operates at an angle of 27 degrees! Descending amidst Hong Kong’s sky-scrapers certainly amplified the experience, but the view is so awe-inspiring (and the ride so short) that you really don’t have time to be nervous at all.


After our Victoria Peak experience, we headed to the harbour to complete another essential Hong Kong experience, and cross from Hong Kong to Kowloon on the world-famous green and white Star Ferry! The Ferry runs every five minutes or so, and is tremendously efficient at unloading and loading passengers. You can choose from the cheaper lower deck (at HK$1.70 or about US$0.22) or the upper deck (at HK$2.20 or about US$0.28). For our first trip, we opted for the less expensive option and waited on the lower platform until the arriving passengers were offloaded. A light bulb flickered and we descended into the Ferry’s belly with about one hundred others. The crossing was noisy (we were right by the engine room) and – even though it was very short – we both felt a little bit of nausea so we agreed we’d treat ourselves to the upper deck next time.


So, how to finish our perfect day of Hong Kong sight-seeing? There was only one option, so we strolled from the Star Ferry pier up to the Peninsula Hotel for afternoon tea. For many, this is an essential Hong Kong experience and it’s never hard to persuade me to enjoy a pot of tea out of a decent china cup, so despite the cost, we enthusiastically waited in line. After a short wait, we were seated and ordered our afternoon tea. Now, I have had the good fortune of tea at the London’s Ritz (snooty service but gorgeous surrounding and food) and – more recently – at the Old Nelson in Cape Town (incredible service, food and value), so I feel like something of an afternoon tea connoisseur, and I have to say that the Peninsula just failed to deliver. In fact, it offered some of the poorest value for money we’ve experienced on the trip so far.

For our US$52, we received: two pots of tea (and the Afternoon Peninsula was a pleasant blend, I grant you!), five tea-sized sandwiches (two ham, two cucumber, one salmon which Lloyd generously let me have), one bite-size quiche, two slices banana bread, three scones, and three bite-site cheesecake-y type objects. We gobbled up the sandwiches, the quiche and one scone each, but frankly weren’t too impressed with the remaining offerings. In Lloyd’s words: “You won’t go hungry, but your taste buds might die of boredom.”

So, if the tea itself was disappointing, at least we enjoyed a first-class ambience, right? Well, no. The service was average if we are generous. Very generous. We received our food tray before the tea arrived, and after all was served, no-one bothered to check on us the entire time we were there. It took almost ten minutes of focused effort to secure the bill (if we had walked out without paying it probably would have taken them half an hour to realize it), and we generally felt that the overall experience had been an overpriced waste of time. Our advice? Skip the Peninsula at all costs.


Even if afternoon tea was disappointing, it couldn't possibly upset the fantastic day we had enjoyed. We spent the evening admiring the view from the hotel's 36th floor lounge, enjoying a glass of wine and nibbles, and planning the days ahead.

Posted by jacquiedro 20:48 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged round_the_world

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